DEERFIELD, Ill. —The submarines built by General Dynamics’ Electric Boat division spend most of their time underwater, prowling in secret, and unseen by other ships and planes. But there’s nothing secretive about Walgreens’ ambition to become the accessible, go-to health solution for hundreds, and potentially thousands, of employers like Electric Boat.
The two companies have expanded a 3-year-old partnership with the opening in June of a second on-site pharmacy, this one at Electric Boat’s Groton, Conn., submarine shipyard. The new center will be managed by Walgreens’ Take Care Health Systems.
The opening of the new Groton pharmacy extends an alliance between Take Care and General Dynamics that began in 2007, when Walgreens opened a center at Electric Boat’s Quonset Point hull-fabrication and outfitting facility in Rhode Island. Combined, those two shipbuilding operations are staffed by some 10,000 employees, all of whom now have direct, on-site access to Take Care’s health services.
Take Care pharmacists at the Groton site will provide prescriptions and pharmacy services to some 14,000 Electric Boat employees, retirees and their dependents enrolled in the company’s health plan. The pharmacy will be open six days a week.
In an exclusive interview, Peter Hotz, Walgreens’ divisional VP and COO for the health-and-wellness division, described how one employer site may vary from the next. “Every company has different pain points and different objectives from a cost and accessibility standpoint,” Hotz explained. “So with some clients, we might start with health coaching or wellness services on-site. With others, we might start with medical services, and some we start with pharmacy. Some we start with a comprehensive solution right off the bat. With Electric Boat…they’ve chosen to focus their energy initially on the pharmacy side.”
However, Hotz added, “It’s very common for us to grow our relationships with an employer. For example, Toyota is a major client. We started with a physical therapist in one plant in Georgetown, Ky., probably 10 or 12 years ago. We now operate in seven or eight locations with them. The newest is in San Antonio, where they make the Tundra trucks,” Hotz continued. “We have full primary medical care, occupational health, physical therapy, dental, vision and a full pharmacy—all through Take Care Health [Systems].”
Hotz described the process that leads to the opening of any worksite health center or pharmacy by Walgreens. “For every center, we typically prepare a feasibility study and business plan up front,” he told Drug Store News. “We sit down with the employer and define the scope of services, hours of operation and the population we’re trying to serve. And we talk with [the employer] about whether they want to structure any financial incentives to encourage utilization of the facility. We put together a detailed model that shows them what we expect to happen over the first three to five years. As part of that, we’ll be modeling what we expect to see in terms of improvements from a clinical standpoint as well,” Hotz added.
To that end, Walgreens can set up benchmarks around such goals as compliance and adherence, the level of generic drug utilization or the appropriate use of antibiotics. “It all starts with engagement,” Hotz said. “Engagement on the front end is very critical, and we focus first and foremost on making sure we get folks in the door.”
On a broader front, “we’re not just trying to grow the worksite business itself,” said Hotz, who oversees both the employer solutions group and the consumer solutions group, as well as the Walgreens Health Services pharmacy benefit management subsidiary. “We’re really trying to use these relationships as a platform from which we can sit down with employers and have a broad-ranging discussion about their overall health management and pharmacy management objectives—and then look at all the assets we have as Walgreens. ‘Complete Care and Well-being’ was based on the idea of taking all our assets and putting them to work to solve the problems of employers.”
Those assets include some 730 Take Care in-store and employer-based clinics and Walgreens’ national specialty pharmacy and home-infusion networks, Hotz explained, as well as “access to our pharmacy networks on a direct basis not only for prescriptions but for biometric screenings and other services.”
Hotz said there is a “halo effect” from the worksite pharmacy and health centers that extends to other Walgreens pharmacies in nearby communities. “There’s the initial cannibalization of retail share with that employer of prescriptions that might have gone through those stores, but…in some of our worksite pharmacies, we’ve been able to capture as many as 85% of the eligible prescriptions. So overall, there’s a tremendous lift,” he asserted. “The benefit is we’re all on one system: Intercom Plus. If you work for Electric Boat…you can walk into any Walgreens pharmacy in the country and be in the system.”