Walgreens' Pegus discusses role of pharmacist, clinics at Care Continuum Alliance Forum

DEERFIELD, Ill. — "The axis of the healthcare system is shifting toward more accessible and collaborative models,” and both pharmacists and nurse practitioners are “well-positioned to have a substantial impact in a post-reform environment.” That was a key message that Walgreens chief medical officer Cheryl Pegus had for attendees of Forum 11, the annual meeting of the Care Continuum Alliance in San Francisco on Friday.

Pegus’ session, titled “Leveraging Community Pharmacists and Convenient Care Clinics in an ACA World,” examined in particular the benefits pharmacies and nurse practitioners can have for the healthcare system as collaboration and delivering measurable outcomes become even more important under the Accountable Care Act, a provision of healthcare reform.

“There is a mounting body of evidence that the role of pharmacists and nurse practitioners within the convenient care model is evolving, and that they are particularly well-positioned to have a substantial impact in a post-reform environment where the dual points of focus are on delivering measurable clinical outcomes while reducing costs,” Pegus said. “At Walgreens, we are seeing every day at our community pharmacies, Take Care Clinics and worksite clinics that the axis of the healthcare system is shifting toward more accessible and collaborative models. With our broad geographic scope and growing depth of clinical services, we are uniquely positioned to help deliver these solutions for both patients and payers.”

Pegus outlined key cost drivers currently facing the system, including medication nonadherence, unnecessary hospital readmissions, aging and chronic illness, and the growing primary care physician shortage. She then offered examples of the value that pharmacists and convenient care clinics can provide in addressing these cost drivers, including studies demonstrating the increasing willingness of patients, employers and managed care plans to embrace these alternative care providers and the role they can fill within Accountable Care Organizations.

Pegus also cited peer-reviewed outcomes data from a number of recent studies illustrating specific examples of pharmacist and NP interactions driving positive clinical and financial outcomes across a number of conditions and settings. 

In concluding the presentation, Pegus discussed a number of recent collaboration agreements that Walgreens has formed with health systems across the United States, including Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group in Illinois, Ochsner Health System in Louisiana, Memorial Health in Florida and LSU health sciences center and healthcare network in Louisiana. These alliances will aim to increase provider collaboration on behalf of patients while improving access to quality care, ultimately contributing to the core ACO goals of better outcomes at lower costs.

The presentation follows Walgreens joining the Care Continuum Alliance in March 2011, and Pegus joining the organization’s board following a member vote at this week's annual meeting. The alliance represents more than 200 organizations and individuals providing services across the continuum of health care, from wellness and prevention to chronic condition management and complex care management. Through advocacy, research and education, the association promotes evidence-based strategies to improve healthcare outcomes and reduce avoidable care costs.

"Walgreens is an excellent fit for our organization. With their focus on promoting access to wellness solutions and enhancing quality of care for consumers, our interests are strongly aligned," Care Continuum Alliance president and CEO Tracey Moorhead said Friday. "Cheryl has an impressive record of helping develop and execute innovative programs and products in the public health sector, as well as leading successful research initiatives. We are pleased she will be sharing her advice and insight with us as a Care Continuum Alliance board member."

Pegus was named Walgreens chief medical officer in May 2010 and has more than 18 years of clinical practice and industry experience. Previously, she was GM and chief medical officer for SymCare Personalized Health Solutions. Prior to joining SymCare in 2007, she held a number of positions at Aetna, eventually becoming head of clinical products for the company’s Medical Products business unit. She also was medical director for the Cardiovascular Risk Factors Group at Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. Pegus is a board-certified physician with subspecialty training in cardiology.