Walgreens recently issued a seemingly minor news release: It will add two new Kansas City health clinics to its national retail chain of 400+ "Take Care Clinics" this fall. But these new clinics are significantly different from other retail clinics:
- These clinics are a collaboration between Humana and Walgreens. While we don't know how or if Humana will influence its beneficiaries to use these sites, the press release says the clinics will offer "in-person health plan support" and navigation. And it's safe to bet that Humana will encourage its beneficiaries to use its partner's new sites, because…
- These clinics are targeted at seniors. With its large Medicare Advantage base, Humana has a vested interest in ensuring the 65+ population has easy access to tailored services in a low-cost setting; with its neighborhood approach, Walgreens can provide those services to Humana (and other) beneficiaries. Together, the partners will offer geriatrics-focused acute and chronic care, health navigation services, and health education.
The collaborators already operate four other "Partners in Primary Care" centers in Kansas City and have expressed interest in expanding into other markets.
While this news only has immediate implications for the Kansas City market, its reverberations could be felt much more widely in the future—especially since these new clinics demonstrate two key trends that we don't expect to slow down soon:
Trend 1: Vertical integration as a care delivery solution
Humana and Walgreens' new clinics are the most explicit indicator that we've seen of what to anticipate from similar vertical integration partnerships, such as CVS' proposed Aetna acquisition. Humana and Walgreens state that they will navigate patients to downstream services; since they likely will encourage Humana beneficiaries to use these sites, that means local providers could see changes to the referral landscapes because of these partners.
And while these two new retail clinics might have a limited impact on local referral volumes in the near-term, Humana and Walgreens could scale this model to other markets. These new partnerships could also expand the retailer's service portfolio: Big Medicare Advantage providers, such as Humana, might focus on geriatrics care, while others might launch onsite chronic care management, imaging services, or employer clinics.
Trend 2: A growing emphasis on geriatric care
The growing geriatric population requires specialized clinical and psychosocial care due to many seniors' health status and vulnerability.
"Geriatricizing" primary care is an opportunity to help manage seniors' complex care needs and increase access to care for elderly populations. We're seeing a range of specialized primary care services emerging to attract this population and meet its specific needs: geriatrics clinics, primary care in assisted living facilities, house call programs, and "geriatricizing" existing primary care practices can all improve access and care quality for seniors.
Humana and Walgreens' geriatric-focused retail clinics are a new and welcome development in the "geriatricized" primary care space. By providing senior-focused navigation support, education, chronic disease and acute care, and healthy lifestyle services where patients already go to refill their prescriptions, these partners stand to improve access and care quality.
Next, access the cheat sheet for hospital partnership and affiliation models
Behind the flurry of M&A in recent years, a deeper trend of hospital integration is underway: the emergence of alternative partnerships that secure many of the same benefits of M&A without the financial and legal commitment: Clinical affiliation, regional collaborative, accountable care organization, and clinically integrated network.
This guide defines these types of partnerships and offers benefits, drawbacks, and examples of organizations in each.