Radio Advisory’s Rachel Woods sat down with Walgreens Health Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Sashi Moodley to discuss the challenges of being a disruptor in a crowded competitive field, building longitudinal patient relationships instead of transactional ones, and Walgreens’ goal of becoming an equal player in the value-based care industry.
Read a lightly edited excerpt of the interview below and download the episode for the full conversation.
Rachel Woods: People think of Walgreens and that vaccine clinic, they think of something that’s certainly accelerated and grown in the context of Covid-19, but they think of it as a place to get their medicine, to be a little bit of a corner market , maybe get vaccinated, but that’s very different from Walgreens Health’s vision. What does Walgreens Health stand for now and what is the vision for the future?
Sashi Moodley: So, Walgreens Health was announced in October 2021 and really allowed us to realize our vision of becoming more of a healthcare destination. From your point of view, I think historically we’ve done some of the things you talked about, vaccines and testing, and that will still be a major part of our strategy, but there’s a lot more we can do. I think Covid really demonstrates the value we bring to the broader healthcare ecosystem across the country.
So Walgreens Health is the new growth engine of the company, where many of our newer assets that we’ve invested in or are building our position in. So this includes for example Village MDwhich is a primary care company that we’ve invested in, and they’re going to build primary care clinics in our stores, across the country.
There are other companies that we have under this umbrella Carecentrics which focuses on patients during the post-acute care period, and so it’s really an effort for us to bring together a portfolio of companies to help manage a patient and organize that journey of care for them.
Woods: And to be that healthcare destination.
Woods: I want to talk about some of the specific investments that are under the Walgreens Health umbrella. And you already mentioned one of them which is Village MD. All of You is the first national pharmacy chain to offer complete primary care with both physicians and pharmacists in the same location. I think you have a goal of getting to, what is it, 200 clinics by the end of 2022?
Moodley: Yes, that’s right. 200 by the end of 2022 and we also said we want to get to a thousand at scale.
Woods: Eha. So what does the partnership with Village MD and the investment in primary care do for this vision for Walgreens Health?
Moodley: I think it goes back to where we want to go and what we’ve traditionally done. I think it’s getting to the point of becoming more of a long-term partner, as that kind of healthcare destination, not just for more transactional-type services, but really for that longitudinal, relationship-based care.
That’s what investing in primary care allows us to do, and when you integrate the pharmacy model into primary care, we think there’s a lot of value that can be created. Something I learned when I joined here was the power of the patient-pharmacist relationship and how much trust there is there. That’s something I didn’t really recognize until I came to the company.
Woods: Well, as a physician, you often think of the relationship as living with me, and that’s the patient-physician relationship, but you describe that people can have deep trusting relationships with other members of the care team, including the pharmacist.
Moodley: It’s just that the patient-PCP relationship is extremely strong, but I didn’t recognize that pharmacist relationship and how important that is. Now I hear stories all the time about patients telling our pharmacist things they wouldn’t even tell their primary care doctor, and we have seniors coming into our stores 10 to 20 times a year to meet with their pharmacist , to choose raise their medication. That’s a lot more engagement they get with their primary care physician.
So it’s no surprise that they know these pharmacists so well and the pharmacists also know these patients so well. We think that by combining this pharmacist model with the primary care model, there is a lot of value that we can create and positively impact the patient.
Woods: It makes sense for this longitudinal relationship—let’s not just meet with someone once or twice a year, we want to meet with them more than 10 times—but it strikes me that these are physical sites, these are personal primary care clinics help.
I know you’re targeting those, or I think at least the majority, in medically underserved areas, but this is happening at the same time that the industry is bringing more care closer to home, not just in, say, a co-located facility, but to digital solutions, to more home care, to more remote patient monitoring. What is the balance between in-person care and virtual care for Walgreens Health?
Moodley: So even if you step back and look at the Village itself, they have a very robust home care program. So I think we usually think of them as brick-and-mortar based care, but they have a robust team that takes patients, often those patients who are too frail to come to the clinic, they see them in their homes .
When you consider the portfolio of assets that we have under Walgreens Health, we have a company that’s really focused on home care, which is Carecentrix and that transition from when the patient moves from the hospital to the nursing facility to the home, they really focus on the patient during this episode. So we see the model of care very broadly. It is not only a personal component, but virtual care in the home as well.
On the virtual care front, we’re making investments in building our capabilities, whether it’s remote patient monitoring or telemedicine, so we can incorporate them into the care model. So it’s definitely all of the above.
Woods: Well, it sounds to me like the business strategy is that Walgreens is basically trying to rebuild the service delivery system and looking for partners that are very good at different aspects of care delivery, whether it’s the longitudinal relationship with the patient , whether it’s brick-and-mortar, whether it’s virtual and remote patient monitoring, and they’re trying to say, “What companies, what partners can we bring under this umbrella so that we can rebuild the delivery system? “
Moodley: If you look at our mission, we want to be a leading partner in reimagining local healthcare. We know we won’t do it all alone. We are looking for partners to help us organize this journey for the patient.
But what do we have to offer that is truly differentiated? 9000 seats in this country. Nearly 80% of the population lives within five miles of one of our stores and millions of people interact with us daily. So it’s an incredible platform for us to be able to engage patients and impact their care beyond what we’re doing now. But we know we will need to work with partners to realize this vision, we won’t be able to do it all alone.
Woods: So you mentioned Village MD and you mentioned Carecentrix. There’s another partner I know you’re working with that I’m not sure I understand the difference between it and some of the other assets. It is Kut Healthwhat is the difference between Health Corner and say a Village MD clinic?
Moodley: So Health Corner is something we build organically. Not an external partner. It’s something internal that we’re building. To understand Health Corner, you have to look again at our scale, 9,000 stores.
With Village, what we mentioned is that we’re going to build a thousand locations, which still leaves 8,000 stores where we won’t have primary care, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do more than what we do today in the healthcare space. services. So Health Corner is an engagement channel through which to provide additional clinical programs, and what we’ve said is we want to build up to 3,000 of these across the country because we’re a big company and we can move the needle, we know that we would need to use our footprint at scale to be able to do that.
So Health Corner, that’s at the core of our strategy, but what I would say about Health Corner is that the way it looks today is not going to be the model it needs to be as we scale it. Because again, it’s a delivery channel.
So what’s really important is what programs we deliver to which patients, and that will determine what the Health Corner looks like, just like we talked about the virtual space in the home, that’s a delivery channel.
More importantly, what are we trying to deliver through this channel? And that will determine who will be sitting in the Health Corner or what the Health Corner actually looks like from an experiential perspective.
Woods: But it’s interesting to me that it’s also a sense of what Walgreens doesn’t do. You didn’t say we were going to build, establish, create 9,000 Village MD locations. The goal is a thousand, which is significant, and then it’s “What else can we do to fill the gaps in the remaining 8,000 stores?” Maybe it’s something that looks a little bit different. It’s a deeper version of the pharmacist relationship that has a technology foundation, but it doesn’t mean you’re building 9,000 primary care offices.
Moodley: Yes, exactly. If you look at where we’re building most of these sites and at least 50% of them will be built in a medically underserved area.
So when you look at our footprint, not all of them would justify having full primary care in them. But again, that doesn’t mean we can’t do more at these sites to help patients along their care journey. We are not trying to compete with primary care, with the Health Corner. In fact, it is about providing comprehensive services to complement the services these patients already receive from their primary care physicians. Because we know that right now, if you look broadly, patient outcomes and quality are not improving at the same rate that costs are rising.
So there’s a huge opportunity to provide some comprehensive services and additional services that really get patients on the right track in terms of disease management.