The Walgreens drugstore chain announced on Wednesday, April 6, that it would open more “Health Corner” stores in California to make it easier for people to access health care. 

As part of an agreement with health insurer Blue Shield, drugstore giant Walgreens will expand its services to become a place where more customers go for medical care, not just drugs.

It will open 12 so-called Health Corner stores in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County and plans to open eight more by mid-year, according to CNBC.

The Walgreens chain, which has 9,000 stores nationwide, has already opened 48 Health Corners and intends to include 100 more by the end of the year.

Blue Shield members and customers will be able to connect with health counselors who can offer simple in-store care and assistance with preventive screenings and blood pressure checks. While customers who the insurer does not cover can also get Health Corner services, albeit more narrowly focused.

The plan to include health care in Walgreens pharmacy chains aims primarily to bring Blue Shield’s services to patients living in “health care deserts.” 

The Health Corner would be significant for people with chronic conditions who need follow-up care for simple health practices, such as medication administration, glucose monitoring for diabetics, etc.

Dr. Sashi Moodley, the chief clinical officer of Walgreens Health, said that Health Corners act as “connective tissue that are keeping these patients on track, especially when they’re between doctor’s visits.”

Moodley said that about 80% of people in California live within 5 miles of a Walgreens store. Many of its regular customers are seniors, caregivers, and people juggling multiple medical conditions, meaning they often see their pharmacist more than their doctor when looking for prescriptions.

Each Health Corner location, which will occupy a more or less discreet location within Walgreens, will be staffed by a pharmacist or nurse and include a private room for medical care and a “technology bar,” the clinical director reported.

Walgreens, since last year, has been betting on health care as a growth strategy, moving away from a retail focus. 

“This new Walgreens Health will make a difference and will began to transform us away from retail and just dispensing pharmaceuticals,” said Roz Brewer, CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, commenting on the company’s new strategy in an interview with CNBC last year.

The company even became the majority owner of VillageMD, a primary care company opening medical offices inside Walgreens stores.

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