Walgreens said Wednesday it is partnering with provider group VillageMD to operate primary care clinics next to five of the pharmacy chain's stores in the Houston area.
The locations, called Village Medical at Walgreens, will provide primary care services, working in tandem with Walgreens pharmacists, nurses and social workers, the companies said.
The 2,500-square-foot clinics are scheduled to roll out at the end of this year. The two companies signaled the collaboration could be the beginning of a larger program, saying in a press release they continue to explore the idea of more clinics in Houston and other markets. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Retail pharmacies like Walgreens are racing to catch up to CVS as consumers' primary point of access to the healthcare industry. The $245 billion CVS behemoth operates more than 9,700 retail locations and more than 1,100 walk-in medical clinics on the ground (not to mention its pharmacy benefit management and insurance capabilities, given its all-but-assured Aetna acquisition).
The concept of a one-stop shop in healthcare is popular among companies looking to get ahead in the era of consumerism, convenience and holistic value-based care.
Walgreens is well placed to compete, with the capital and capacity to expand the breadth of locations and services alike.
CVS opened three of its own "HealthHUBs" in Houston in December. Those stores pivot the retailer away from front-of-store products to more of a wellness bent, hosting an expanded health clinic with a lab for health screening and blood testing as well as wellness rooms — along with the pharmacy.
But that doesn't mean other players can't elbow into the market.
In another similar partnership, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas and healthcare company Sanitas USA plan to open 10 primary care clinics in Dallas and Houston on pretty much the same timeline as Walgreens-VillageMD. The initiative, announced Tuesday, will provide primary care, urgent care, imaging, disease management and wellness services for BCBS cardholders, along with self-pay and traditional Medicare patients.
Wednesday's announcement is not the only test project for Walgreens. The almost 10,000-store giant is piloting urgent care centers across several markets in a collaboration with Michigan-based McLaren Health Care and senior-focused care centers in a partnership with health insurer Humana amidst speculation of a potential tie-up between the two, potentially taking equity stakes in each other or even a merger.
VillageMD's patent-pending data integration docOS system, released in April of last year, is a key part of the collaboration's benefits for Walgreens, according to the company. The tech, meant to help doctors and patients manage chronic care conditions, identifies and flags gaps in health or missed diagnoses and can be accessed via phone, kiosk, home-based monitoring or telemedicine.
VillageMD has more than 120 primary care physicians in its Houston medical group. If Walgreens wants to explore a deepening of the partnership and scale Village Medical at its stores further, VillageMD already contracts or employs more than 2,500 physicians in eight markets across the U.S.