Big Data, Better Care: Walgreens' Clinics Turn to Analytics

For many patients, stopping by a retail clinic is becoming a popular alternative to traditional physician office visits. The rate at which people visit retail clinics tripled from 2007 through 2010. Additionally, the total number of retail clinics is expected to double from 1,400 in 2012 to more than 2,800 by 2015.

Drugstore chain Walgreens operates approximately 400 retail clinics across the country, providing patient services such as acute care, physicals, immunizations and assessment, treatment and management of certain chronic conditions. The goal of the clinics is to provide a convenient option for customers with common or routine healthcare needs. As more patients begin to use Healthcare Clinic visits to supplement their heath management, Walgreens saw an opportunity to improve continuity of care for patients in the community while providing efficient, evidence-based care within the clinics.

To this end, in September 2013, Walgreens partnered with Inovalon to provide a data-driven encounter support platform, Electronic Patient Assessment Solution Suite, to Healthcare Clinics. The ePASS software uses a massive database of clinical encounters to guide clinicians' interactions with patients, prompting certain questions or laboratory tests based on that specific patient's history and available data about similar patients. Following the encounter, ePASS adds relevant notes or test results to the patient's electronic health record.

When the program was first announced, it centered around Inovalon using the Healthcare Clinics as a site for face-to-face assessment. Last week, Walgreens announced an expansion of the relationship, to combine Inovalon's analytic capabilities with Healthcare Clinic's resources, such as immunizations and lab services, to provide a more complete picture of a patient's treatment history and close gaps in care, The program just launched in Philadelphia and will be rolling out in more markets soon, says Heather Helle, divisional vice president for Walgreens consumer solutions group.

"We're expanding our relationship with Inovalon to combine the data and analytics Inovalon has available with the convenience of our Healthcare Clinics," says Ms. Helle. The program will both help Walgreens clinicians have as much information as possible at the point of care, and will improve continuity of care by sending the visit summary back to the patient's primary care physician, she says.

The program will also allow the health plans and accountable care organizations Walgreens works with to have a more complete picture of a patient's treatment history.

"It's a solution for health plans and ACOs that are interested in improving continuity of care, risk score accuracy, quality scores and patient outcomes," she says. "There's an opportunity here, and we believe we're well-positioned to provide a service to health plans' and ACOs' members to improve quality scores and close gaps in care."

The partnership represents Walgreens first foray into big data analytics in its clinics, but Ms. Helle expects the program to expand in the coming years as the industry transitions to value-based care. "As the market moves from fee-for-service to risk-sharing we do believe there will be a broader application for this because it helps us understand members better than we could in the past," she says.

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