There was something that jumped out at me during the one-hour interview with Walgreens president and CEO Greg Wasson that helped set the tone for the massive, 86-page exclusive report on the company that appears in this issue. It had to do with Wasson’s vision for the role of community pharmacy in the future of health care.
“I want to be clear, I mean community pharmacy — not community pharmacists,” he said. “Because community pharmacy encompasses not only the role of pharmacists within the store, but for many of us that are co-locating nurse practitioners and physician assistants, and in some cases physicians, in their stores, it means expanding the scope of services a community pharmacy can provide, and expanding that even further.”
There are signs that the future is already upon us. The state of Massachusetts, which in many ways has been the learning lab for health reform, in August passed a new cost-containment law that aims to reduce health spending in the state by some $200 billion over the next 15 years. Among other key measures, the new law expands the services that can be provided in a Massachusetts retail clinic to the full scope of practice for a nurse practitioner, including diagnosis and treatment, management and monitoring of acute and chronic disease, and wellness and preventive services.
When you do that, basically 80% of all primary care can be provided in a community pharmacy setting. According to 61% of DrugStoreNews.com users who participated in a late August/early September reader poll, the new law will likely be a model for other states that will look for the best ways to lower costs and expand access to care.
There are other signs that the future is already here. Take, for instance, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ interest in partnering with Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, Sam’s Club and Thrifty White, among others, to drive better awareness for the free annual wellness visits Medicare recipients became eligible to receive in 2010. Only 6% of seniors actually took CMS up on the offer in the first year.
And even prior to this, seniors had emerged as a growing segment of the retail clinic patient population. According to the highly popular Rand study, which is being featured in the September 2012 edition of Health Affairs — seniors made up almost 15% of retail clinic patients between 2007 and 2009, up from 7.5% in the period from 2000 to 2006. Indeed, the findings are based on 3-year-old data in a sector of health care that is changing dramatically every day
There had been a 102% increase in clinic visits in each of those years.
You can expect those numbers to climb even higher in the years ahead. Wasson certainly does.
Rob Eder is the editor in chief of The Drug Store News Group, publishers of Drug Store News, DSN Collaborative Care, and Specialty Pharmacy magazines. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.