The COVID-19 pandemic has altered how nearly every facet of life is conducted, especially when it comes to healthcare. More and more, the ways that people receive care are transforming to include new venues.
Alex Gourlay, co-COO of Walgreens, today discussed the ways that Walgreens has and will remodel itself from a community pharmacy into a full-fledged healthcare destination.
“Healthcare has become even more important for people than ever before, and therefore, the corner pharmacy, the corner drugstore, has become even more essential in people’s lives,” Gourlay said during the HLTH VRTL 2020 event.
One of the key ways that Walgreens transformed its services during the pandemic was through digital integrations. Gourlay and his team recognized that many people, especially now, want to receive as much care as possible through alternative channels.
Walgreens’ Find Care digital platform existed prior to the pandemic and gives patients access to telehealth features through partnerships such as with MDLive and Amwell, as well as connects users with solutions for diabetes, asthma and sleep problems. During the pandemic, the Find Care platform also began offering COVID-19 resources, including testing and informational resources.
These resources proved to be effective in accelerating usage, as it generated about 8.5 million customers annually coming through the platform, which is a significant increase year over year, according to Gourlay.
Beyond its digital platform, Walgreens is looking to expand into primary care through its partnership with VillageMD. Currently, the pharmacy chain has five physical clinic locations, but it has plans to increase that number to 40 by the end of the fiscal and will add at least 500 locations in the next five years, Gourlay said.
“Having the doctor and the pharmacist not just together physically but, more importantly, together digitally – sharing information, being able to access healthcare at home through the digital app, through telemedicine or pharmacy chat – as well as physically in your local corner drugstore, we think is incredibly important,” he said.
Primary care provided at pharmacies can be made even better by integrating technology into the workflow, which is an important focus for Walgreens, Gourlay said. Tasks like putting tablets in a prescription bottle, answering the phone and sending out a prescription can all be taken care of by technology to free up the pharmacist to perform more high-value duties.
In the future, Walgreens will focus more on pharmacy, health and wellbeing, according to Gourlay. There will be more attention to not only curing acute illnesses but preventing them from even happening. Pharmacists can expect to see their roles grow, as they begin to work more closely with physicians and nurses in their communities.
“There’s nothing more important in people’s lives than their health,” Gourlay said. “And the more that we can demonstrate that we are able to bring the best solutions, the more I think we’ll be relevant and the more we’ll be able to meet the modern needs of modern patients, communities and customers.”