Retailers Like Walmart, Walgreens Continue Push into Care Coordination

Jared Kaltwasser
AUGUST 06, 2019
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As major retailers push their way into healthcare, some big names continue to turn their attention to care coordination. Both Walgreens and Walmart recently announced moves related to the organizational process, which is aimed at boosting patient adherence and disease maintenance.

Care coordination, of course, is a key component of the move to value-based care. The process could be critical in a future that no longer relies on the fee-for-service healthcare model.

In this new world, the steps taken by Walmart and Walgreens could position the retailers to boost revenues and perhaps increase competition with traditional healthcare providers — all by helping patients organize the healthcare services they receive.

“Our research shows that Walgreens customers are looking for new, convenient and affordable ways to understand and manage their healthcare needs,” said Giovanni Monti, MBA, MIA, vice president and director of healthcare innovation at Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc., in a press release.

Walgreens said it would expand its Find Care platform, which helps patients connect with providers, to include chronic disease management tools. Specifically, the company plans to add services geared toward patients with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and diabetes.

“We believe that by integrating connected care devices, digital therapeutics and the pharmacy experience, we’ll help individuals better manage their chronic conditions while also lowering the overall cost of care,” Monti added.

Walmart, meanwhile, acquired an Indian startup called FloCare. That company created a care coordination platform for the “aging-at-home” population. The deal folds FloCare into Walmart’s technology subsidiary, WalmartLabs, which is based in Mountain View, California. The acquisition took the form of an acqui-hire, with FloCare’s executives joining Walmart Lab’s customer-technology team. The company did not respond to questions seeking comment on its plans for the FloCare platform.

Walgreens said it will partner with Dexcom to provide patients with diabetes with access to the Dexcom G6 continuous glucose monitoring system. The system involves a subdermal monitor that can be worn for up to 10 days to track glucose levels and wirelessly issue alerts when patients reach high or low benchmarks.

For asthma and COPD, Walgreens will incorporate the Propeller system, a small device that attaches to a patient’s inhaler, allowing patients and physicians to better track medication use. The Propeller app also generates personalized insights such as reminders and air quality alerts.
Just one year old, the Find Care platform is available to patients through partnerships between Walgreens and more than two dozen health systems and providers.

Propeller co-founder and CEO David Van Sickle said retailers are logical partners for companies that aim to improve patient management of chronic diseases.

“Simplifying the self-management of chronic diseases is essential to improving outcomes and reducing the burden on patients and their families,” he told Inside Digital Health™. “Reputable retailers like Walgreens make it easier to get digital health tools into the hands of people that need them.”

Patients can sign up for Propeller through the Find Care platform at no cost thanks to sponsorships from pharma companies.

Propeller encourages physician involvement but said it’s possible for patients to access the program even without their doctor’s involvement. Van Sickle said he hopes to expand Propeller’s reach through further deals with other retailers.

But as digital health innovators team up with retail players that are new to healthcare, a question emerges: What role will health systems play in these new relationships? And if the answer is “none,” then what does that mean for health systems and how can C-suites act to avoid harm?

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