Walgreens and Johns Hopkins to collaborate in unique training and research partnership

August 15, 2011

Walgreens' pharmacists will be better able to help patients manage chronic diseases and assist in new medical research as part of a unique training and research partnership with Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Key Points

Walgreens' pharmacists will be better able to help patients manage chronic diseases and assist in new medical research as part of a unique training and research partnership with Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Md.

In late May, Johns Hopkins and Walgreens' chain of more than 7,700 drugstores entered into a collaborative agreement that includes new training programs for all of Walgreens' staff, including pharmacists, nurse practitioners, nurses, and physicians.

New guidelines and training

Johns Hopkins' faculty will also help Walgreens develop protocols and medical guidelines in chronic disease management, as well as training programs for its staff. The 2 organizations also plan to explore the possibility of jointly developing lifestyle, chronic care, and disease-specific programs.

Walgreens and Johns Hopkins will focus the training and research programs on asthma, diabetes, weight management, heart disease, hypertension, and patient safety, according to both Rosan and Shaver. In addition, Shaver added, they are addressing questions that include "How do we provide the right care at the right cost in the right environment?"

Consumer lifestyles, patient care

Eventually, consumer lifestyle programs could include management of chronic diseases, how to obtain the right nutrition, and finding an effective balance between work and health, Shaver said. Since initiatives are in the early stages of planning, specific educational programs have not been decided, he added.

Walgreens plans to train its more than 70,000 healthcare service providers with the new Johns Hopkins protocol, according to the company.

"Since we are the leading provider of home infusion services and one of the leaders in retail health clinics, all of our clinicians and health service providers will have the opportunity to participate. However, the primary objective is to improve patient care for all of the people our clinical teams see on a daily basis," Rosan said.

Research partnership

Working with the current Walgreens research team, Johns Hopkins' experts will develop new ideas for research in disease management, screening, and prevention, which they will follow up with funding proposals. Johns Hopkins' researchers will have access to Walgreens' large patient database, which is a prerequisite for large-scale population studies. All patient information used in the studies will be anonymous, according to Johns Hopkins.

Research programs will focus on biomedical research that can be applied in the consumer marketplace, said Shaver.

"NIH [National Institutes of Health] and other agencies are interested in moving more of the biomedical research into research that can be translated quickly into the marketplace. When you look at the number of people who come into Walgreens every day, there are opportunities to work with Walgreens teams on weight management, chronic diseases, and other issues," Shaver said.

The joint program will grow and evolve over the next year, according to Rosan. "Our first training program will be launched by the end of 2011 and our first research program is currently in development," he said.

Walgreens is the first drugstore chain to work with Johns Hopkins on this type of agreement, and Johns Hopkins' executives are open to working with other retail chains.

"This is the first agreement that is consumer-facing through a retail organization. We also have an arrangement with Yahoo Health to provide health updates and blogging," Shaver said.