Walgreens chief executive officer Greg Wasson this morning said the drugstore chain will step up investments in services to help Americans manage chronic diseases, saying the company wants to capitalize on what he called the “retailization” of the nation’s health care system.
The Deerfield-based pharmacy giant, meeting with Wall Street analysts and investors, said it wants to continue to expand its network of medical care providers and the services they provide. Walgreens increasingly has been lobbying to give pharmacists a greater role in medical care such as providing immunizations in its stores as well as establishing retail health clinics staffed by nurse practitioners.
“We are evolving into a retail health and daily living store,” said Wasson in a presentation to Wall Street analysts and investors in the Chicago suburbs that is also being Webcast. “We want to own ‘well.’ ”
Wasson and his team say they see a booming market of aging baby boomers, citing one in three American who will turn 65 in the next decade. He said Walgreens pharmacies are trying to establish their pharmacists and other health professionals as an option to help provide certain primary medical care service amid a national shortage of primary care doctors.
Walgreens pharmacists, he said, can help patients “manage” their chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. The health care overhaul law will bring more than 30 million Americans coverage in the next four years and therefore give these uninsured people money to buy Walgreens services.
As one example, Walgreens President of pharmacy services Kermit Crawford said Walgreens last year partnereed with Oprah Winfrey to promote the company’s blood glucose screenings which are being offered at more stores to help diagnose and provide preventive medical care for diabetes. Next week, Walgreens said it will announce free glucose screenings at hundreds of its stores, Crawford said.
Crawford said Walgreens is working with state governments to help pharmacists become “certified immunizers.” The pharmacy chain wants to move beyond the ability to administer seasonal flu shots that it has been granted by state public health officials across the country to having the ability to administer other vaccines such as immunizations for shingles.
“We are definitely seeing a new consumer,” Wasson said. “(These customers) are looking for affordable health and daily living solutions.”