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Walgreens Pharmacy Expands Its Offerings into Chronic Care

Update Date: Apr 04, 2013 09:53 AM EDT

Walgreens is no longer content to be your neighborhood pharmacy. The drugstore recently announced that it was expanding into chronic care in most of its in-store clinics. Of course, the move has been greeted with some pushback from doctors.

Walgreens already has 370 Take Care Clinics that were established to address minor issues if customers could not make an appointment with their doctor, like flu shots. The clinics are run by pharmacy technicians and nurse practitioners. However, Walgreens recently announced that it is going to expand the offerings of the majority of these clinics into chronic care, to diagnose, treat and monitor patients suffering from chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes.

The company says that it is responding to various issues. First, many of its customers are aging and, as a result, suffer from a variety of chronic maladies. In addition, many of their customers enter their stores and complain that they could not make an appointment with their physicians.

For their part, it seems that physicians have been listening to the complaints. In response to the expanding access of pharmacies, many doctors' offices offer same-day appointments. In addition, many offer evening and weekend appointments.

Walgreens is not the first pharmacy to make such a move. Rivals Rite Aid connects customers to physicians in remote locations, and CVS rolled out chronic care in its own in-store clinics. However, CVS's clinics treat and monitor individuals after a diagnosis has been made elsewhere, a marked difference than Walgreens's approach.

Walgreens's announcement has not come without pushback from physicians, who insist that Walgreens's intrusion will cause the fragmentation of healthcare. "Our concern is that expansion of retail clinics from urgent care into chronic care means they may get a piece of their diabetes here, blood pressure there," Dr. Jeffrey Cain, the President of the American Academy of Family Physicians and a family physician in Denver, said yesterday in a telephone interview with Bloomberg. "Our health care system is already fragmented."

However, according to the Associated Press, Walgreens says that its aim is not to replace doctors. Instead, it wants to work with physicians as a team, helping to coordinate patient care.

In fact, Walgreens says that nearly half of its customers do not even have a primary care physician. In that event, they will diagnose the chronic illness, start a treatment plan and connect them with a doctor.

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