Walgreens Expands Healthcare Offerings in Key California Markets

Walgreens is opening more Health Corner locations through an agreement with Blue Shield of California. In the dedicated spaces, he can provide medical care billed to the insurer.

California Blue Shield

At Walgreens stores in California, the pharmacy chain plans to become a place where more customers go for medical care, not just prescriptions.

Walgreens Boots Alliance said Wednesday it would expand the number of stores in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas with so-called Health Corners, which provide medical care in association with California health insurer Blue Shield. It has opened 12 Health Corner locations in California and plans to open eight more by the middle of the year.

Health corners are discreet spaces in stores where a registered nurse or pharmacist can schedule a mammogram, screen a patient for high blood pressure or diabetes, or help install a high-tech medical device.

Dr. Sashi Moodley, clinical director of Walgreens Health, said Health Corners act as “a connective tissue that keeps these patients on track, especially when they’re between doctor visits.”

These new services are being offered in “health care deserts” that have few doctor’s offices and a predominant number of patients with chronic conditions like diabetes, Moodley said.

Blue Shield reimburses the billable services that the Health Advisor provides to its members. Customers who are not covered by the insurer can also obtain certain services from a health corner, but for Blue Shield members there is a longer list of health services available and no co-payment.

So far, the 9,000-store chain has opened a total of 48 Health Corners, including 36 in New Jersey, where it has an agreement with Clover Health. It’s looking to have 100 locations by the end of the year.

Walgreens declined to share financial terms or duration of the agreements.

Expanding with insurers is part of the company’s strategy to move into healthcare, as businesses from Amazon to Capsule drain its typical shampoo, painkiller and prescription sales.

Walgreens has made several acquisitions, including becoming the majority owner of VillageMD, a primary care company, which is opening medical offices connected to the chain’s stores. Additionally, it is opening robotic treatment centers across the country, which helps fill prescriptions and frees up time for pharmacists to provide more medical care.

Rival CVS Health is also transforming select stores into healthcare destinations by adding more medical services and devices and developing a new store format called HealthHub. CVS owns health insurer Aetna and directs members to MinuteClinic locations, which are located in stores.

Its many stores make the Walgreens deal attractive, DD Johnice, vice president of Blue Shield of California’s Health Transformation Lab, said in a press release. It will “make these resources available closer to home” and “provide more satisfying and convenient support to our members and their families,” she said.

Each Health Corner location will be staffed by a Walgreens pharmacist or nurse and will include a private room and a “tech bar”, Moodley said.

Moodley said Walgreens can reduce health care costs for insurers by interacting more frequently with patients at Health Corner locations. Nearly 80% of the US population lives within five miles of a Walgreens store, and many of its regular customers are seniors, caregivers, and people who juggle multiple medical conditions, which means they often see their pharmacist more than their doctor when picking up prescriptions, he said.

“You can only impact the patients you can engage and that’s a key reason why we think we’re so well positioned,” he said.