April 28th 2016

Walgreens is handing off ownership and operations of 27 retail clinics across the St. Louis region to its health-system partner SSM Health.

Walgreens is handing off ownership and operations of 27 retail clinics across the St. Louis region to its health-system partner SSM Health.

This coming fall, those clinics—which include 4 in-store sites in Illinois—will become an extension of the SSM Health Medical Group and be renamed SSM Health Express Clinic at Walgreens. Until that time, Walgreens will continue to manage the existing Walgreens Healthcare Clinics in those 27 locations.

“By combining the convenience of Walgreens locations with the personalized care and expertise of the SSM Health Medical Group, we will provide a seamless health care experience for our patients. This means care that is truly integrated whether you visit an SSM Health physician, hospital, urgent care, or Express Clinic at Walgreens,”statedJames Bleicher, MD, regional president of the SSM Health Medical Group and ambulatory services in St. Louis.

This marks the third time that Walgreens has opted to outsource its retail clinic operations to atraditional health system.

Last August, the drugstore chain announced a deal to open 25 new in-store retail clinics in Oregon and Washington State that will be owned and staffed by Providence Health & Services, the third-largest not-for-profit health system in the United States. Then, this past January, Walgreens stated that it’s transitioning ownership and operations of its56 retail clinics across the Chicagolandarea to its health-system partner Advocate Health Care.

This shift is part of Walgreens’ increasing strategy to strengthen care coordination for patients by handing off retail clinic operations to local providers.

“Today’s announcement is another example of how providers can work together to help improve population health while helping to ensure a continuum of care for patients in the community,” stated Walgreens Healthcare Clinics Chief Medical Officer Pat Carroll, MD. “This also demonstrates the value of deeper health-system collaborations which can facilitate the transition of retail health clinics from urgent, episodic care to more coordinated care.”

Under the agreement, Walgreens and SSM Health will form a joint council to share best practices and experiences that improve patient care, quality, and satisfaction while reducing health care costs.

Walgreens currently provides pharmacy services for SSM Health patients and employees, and the 2 organizations will explore opportunities to integrate other Walgreens services as part of their broader collaboration.

Well over 100 hospital and health systems are currentlypartnered with retail clinics, according to Tine Hansen-Turton,MGA, JD, FCPP, FAAN, the founding executive director for the Convenient Care Association. These partnerships allow for the expansion of access to care, service expansion opportunities such as chronic disease management and maintenance, enhanced quality monitoring and improvement programs, ongoing support of continuity of care, and compliance with the Affordable Care Act.

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