“With this future focus, we’re working with partners to harness data, analytics, and artificial intelligence to give our customers and patients a unique advantage,” she says, adding that Walgreens it working “to develop more personalized health care experiences across a range of needs, from preventive self-care to chronic disease management.”
Yacoub says it’s likely there will be more mergers in the future, versus roll up of retail pharmacies, as healthcare needs to be delivered more efficiently and conveniently with an omnichannel strategy. Healthcare in general, he says, is evolving and patients are challenged with the friction and the inconveniences even today.
“As an example, you may have to go to one place to get lab work, then to the doctor to get diagnosed, then to the pharmacy to pick up medication,” he says. “This process is likely repetitive if you have a chronic disease. I suspect there will be more consolidation in services to provide a more convenient experience to consumers such as improving the omnichannel experience, expansion of clinical services, and a more efficient local delivery model.”
Hallan says there’s an increased focus right now in lowering the prescription cost, both from a pharmacy’s perspective to increase profit and for the PBMs to lower their costs.
“Naturally this is going to create a system where mergers have to happen in order to grab a larger share of the market so they are able to lower their costs and maintain profitability,” he says. “The market forces are ideal to make these happen.”
Industry-wide, Bizzaro says it’s unlikely that we will see any major activity with mergers in the near term, noting what is more likely to happen is independent local and regional chains will continue to be acquired by major national retailers—which may pose challenges for some communities, since often these acquisitions result in store closings and consolidation.
“If a local pharmacy closes, traveling to another location to access medications may become a challenge for some patients, and some pharmacists may lose their jobs,” he says. “Because pharmacists are central to the communities they serve, it’s important to keep an eye on social determinants of health issues such as transportation challenges that could have an impact on medication adherence when these acquisitions result in store closings.”
Brown notes part of Walgreen’s strategy entails focusing on establishing new partnerships and furthering existing ones with other industry leaders to transform its offering, organization, and infrastructure.
For instance, most recently, Walgreens partnered with brands including Microsoft, FedEx, LabCorp, Birchbox, Kroger, Humana, and Verily to create new healthcare and retail experiences.
The industry has already witnessed how online prescription refills, as well as over-the-counter ordering, have impacted retail pharmacies. Bizzaro notes those services will likely continue to grow in popularity, especially with the increasing popularity of mobile apps that increase access, convenience and adherence.
“Online technologies will have a more meaningful impact in the coming years by providing patients with trusted, objective, and reliable information about their medications, including how and why they need to adhere to their prescribed regimens,” he says. “There is so much misleading and false drug information on the internet, and patients are looking for reliable and authoritative data, especially if they are directed to it by their pharmacist or other trusted healthcare professional.”
For that reason, an increasing number of pharmacies are accessing authoritative sources to provide complete drug and dosing information to their patients that they can access online.
“Ideally, this information should be provided at a fifth- to eighth-grade reading level in multiple languages for maximum comprehension, and to meet patients where they are when it comes to health literacy,” Bizzaro says. “Online technologies also enable video demonstrations of proper medication administration for more complex delivery methods such as inhalers or injectables.”
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