Drugstores are moving toward a one-stop shopping experience as they plan to include doctor’s visits and health insurance along with selling pharmaceuticals.
Supermarket pharmacies are empowering pharmacists to take a more active role in patient care.
These two trends may help alleviate the strain on the U.S. healthcare system. According to Axios, retail pharmacies are in a prime position to take advantage of new consumer interest in health and wellness since the pandemic disrupted lives.
Amazon recently announced a $3.9 billion deal to acquire One Medical, which offers virtual healthcare and operates nearly 200 primary care offices. Existing services will include diagnostics, prescription delivery and virtual on-call pharmacists as well as virtual, in-person and in-home healthcare through Amazon Care.
CVS CEO Karen Lynch says her company is determined to acquire or take a stake in a primary provider by the end of the year. Although CVS was beaten by Amazon in acquiring One Medical, Lynch and her team say their existing physical footprint is already an advantage.
"Let me remind you that we are the largest provider of retail health services in the nation," Lynch said. CVS already has access to a "significant swath" of the healthcare market, says Axios, with insurer Aetna and pharmacy benefits manager Caremark. Currently, eligible Aetna and CVS Caremark customers can receive some in-person and virtual primary care and mental health services.
Walgreens has invested in Village MD to open clinics in its stores. Rite Aid partnered with Homeward, a primary care company, to offer services in hundreds of Rite Aid locations in rural areas.
Another trend to watch, says XIFIN, a company devoted to finding the best healthcare for the lowest cost, is the empowerment of pharmacists to take a more active role in patient care.
In addition to dispensing medicine and discussing side effects, pharmacists are trained to read laboratory results and help patients achieve better health outcomes. COVID-19 put pharmacists on the front line of healthcare in many areas, including giving vaccines and offering advice on safety procedures.
Companies like Kroger and Publix are investing in technology to streamline processes to give pharmacists more time to interact with patients.
"The added time with patients enables pharmacists to build relationships with patients and aids in better managing chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressures," says Tina Voss, product marketing manager for XIFIN.
"Effectively, pharmacists become more integrated members of the care team. Collaborating with primary care physicians and forging new partnerships with payors is a goal of many successful supermarket pharmacies, helping to close gaps in healthcare and solidify their position as healthcare destinations."
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