In the summer of 2018, the pharmacy retail business of Walgreens Boots Alliance (NYSE: WBA) announced it was forming a unique partnership with insurance company Humana (NYSE: HUM) focused on community-based senior care.
Initially, the partnership — operated by Humana subsidiary Partners in Primary Care — launched inside two Walgreens stores in Kansas City, Missouri. Although it has only expanded to one more location since, Walgreens remains bullish on the joint venture and sees it as fundamental to the future of community health going forward.
Company leadership provided an update on the partnership Wednesday during a first-quarter earnings call with investors and analysts.
“More and more patients are living longer with diseases in communities, so we believe the local model will become important to the future of health care delivery,” Walgreens co-COO Alex Gourlay said during the call.
Each Partners in Primary Care senior care clinic — open to patients participating in a number of different Medicare plans — is staffed by a board-certified physician supported by holistic care teams. Specifically, the team includes registered nurse “care coaches,” behavioral health specialists and social workers specially trained for serving seniors.
While Gourlay remained optimistic about the Walgreens senior care sites, he did not disclose any tangible timeline for future expansion.
“It looks very good and is operating really well [and] the relationship between the pharmacist and doctors is really close,” Gourlay said. “We continue to feel really good about that very small but important test joint venture.”
At one point, rumors swirled that Humana and Walgreens were interested in taking equity stakes in one another, though that obviously never materialized. In addition to its partnership with Humana, Walgreens is also tied to an initiative with in-home primary care startup VillageMD.
From the 40,000-foot perspective, the Walgreens-Humana partnership reflects how the U.S. health care system has shifted away from acute, reactive care toward preventative treatment aimed at keeping seniors healthy in their homes and communities.
“We continue to develop new and innovative models to bring health care services closer to our customers, and deliver the trusted care our communities have come to expect from Walgreens,” Stefano Pessina, executive vice chairman and CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, said when the Humana senior care partnership was first announced. “With this new initiative, we can expand the care for seniors that our pharmacists and other team members have provided for decades. I am confident that this collaboration will be a great example of the power of strategic partnership in providing better health care services in the communities we both serve.”
Other big, traditionally non-health care players have tried to get involved with health care’s shift toward home as well.
In September, for example, Walmart (NYSE: WMT) revealed it’s working with Amedisys Inc. (Nasdaq: AMED) through its “Walmart Health” strategy. The first Walmart Health location is a 10,000-square-foot center next to a Walmart store in Dallas, Georgia.
“We are testing a variety of services with partners in our Walmart Health prototype in Dallas, Georgia,” a Walmart previously spokesperson told Home Health Care News. “Among them is home health, hospice and personal care, so if a customer has questions or needs information, they can discuss with the on-site partner, Amedisys.”