Community Health outsources Indianapolis pharmacies to Walgreens

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Walgreens pharmacies seem to be on every corner. Beginning in December, they’ll also be in three Community Health Network hospitals.

Community and Walgreens recently announced that the pharmacies at Community Hospital East, North and South—which currently are run by Community and operate under the Wellspring name—will become Walgreens on Dec. 19. At the same time, the Wellspring Pharmacy locations at Community Health Pavilion Noblesville and Community Health Pavilion Shadeland will close.

Community declined to disclose terms of the deal. But Kyle Fisher, executive vice president and chief strategy innovation officer for the hospital network, said the agreement builds on a three-year clinical collaboration between Community and Walgreens. The partnership started with clinics in Walgreens stores that were staffed by nurse practioners who received support and oversight from Community primary care physicians.

“As partnerships go, you start a partnership and you always have dialogue: How can we expand that partnership?” he said. “This was the next logical step of the growth in that collaboration.”

Fisher said Community also sought out the partnership so that it could offer employees and patients more pharmacy locations with expanded hours, as well as sophisticated digital services.

"We’re finding that our patients and our employees are demanding more ways to connect digitally," he said, "and Walgreens is very good at that.”

Community is the first hospital network in Indianapolis to outsource pharmacy operations. IU Health, St. Vincent and Franciscan Health all operate their own pharmacies in their hospitals.

Ed Abel, director of targeted health care services for Blue and Co. Consulting, said the deal is a sign “that retail pharmacies are a pretty distinct business and there are a couple of operators that are pretty good at it: Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid. Community is essentially saying we want somebody managing our pharmacies.”

Walgreens spokesman Scott Goldberg said the drugstore chain has more than 180 pharmacies at hospitals and medical office buildings across the country.

It's “another channel that enables us to get closer to patients, and allows our pharmacists to work collaboratively with hospital staff as a part of patients’ care teams, while also providing a variety of pharmacy services that can help improve patient care and outcomes,” he said.

Goldberg said hospitals report that medication non-adherence is one of their biggest challenges in trying to reduce readmissions and related costs, and research shows nearly one in three new prescriptions go unfilled. He said having Walgreens staff in the hospitals should reduce that problem.

“Walgreens pharmacists at these locations offer services such as bedside delivery of medications prior to a patient being discharged,” he said. “This helps to ensure patients understand their medication therapy, to help ensure better adherence to prescriptions following their transition from hospital to home.”  

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