Walgreens' continued transformation into comprehensive health solutions provider is an opportunity for all

Beginning July 1, Walgreens will be able to provide tube feeding services to Medicare patients in 97 of 100 competitive-bidding areas nationwide, the healthcare solutions provider announced last week. The contracts are up for renewal every three years. 

This is just another example of how Walgreens is transforming its pharmacy business into a center for healthcare solutions — this goes far beyond dispensing and ultimately aims squarely at reducing hospitalization costs, another way that Walgreens is helping payers bend the cost curve. It begs the question: Should traditional suppliers be thinking about the role their products can play as Walgreens develops new business segments like infusion services?

The underlying question is whether those patients — who may need nutrition information and possibly education on how to better manage a chronic condition — can make a difference to your business. 

Approximately 40,000 PN patients and 344,000 EN patients each year receive their nutrition therapy at home.

Walgreens has certainly proven its services help generate positive outcomes. According to a joint release from Walgreens and the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition issued earlier this year, Walgreens' home nutrition support team interventions improved patient care and potentially prevented an estimated 429 hospital days over a three-month period. The cost savings of those interventions were estimated at more than $850,000. 

The study included data from 16 Walgreens Infusion Services offices, with 2,500 enteral nutrition patients and 270 parenteral nutrition patients on service during the study period. Interventions were performed by the Walgreens Infusion Services home nutrition support team, which includes nurses, pharmacists and dietitians who work closely with physicians to provide care to both EN and PN patients. 

The patient-centric multidisciplinary approach to care enabled the teams to identify therapy complications and intervene. There were 373 total interventions completed during the three-month study, including correcting over/underfeeding, preventing dehydration, reducing/eliminating diarrhea, managing hyperglycemia, managing electrolyte imbalances, transitioning patients from PN to oral eating, and starting patients on PN therapy in the home instead of in the hospital.