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Cracks Emerge in Retail Clinic Model

Walgreens VillageMD venture shutters Chicago practices
by Bruce Japsen

The healthcare delivery model with roots in Chicago that pairs a retailer or drugstore chain with primary care physicians is running into problems. 

With its founding in Chicago, startup company VillageMD, Walgreens was enamored with the idea of attaching physician-staffed clinics next to its stores. There would be synergies and seamless healthcare delivery: when a primary care patient gets a treatment and needs a prescription or perhaps an over-the-counter healthcare item, it would be right next door.

“Imagine a day when 45% of our Walgreens stores—of the 9,100 stores that happen to be within five miles of 75% of the homes across the United States—where you can walk in and see a primary care physician who is attached to a Walgreens drugstore,” former Walgreens Boots Alliance Chief Executive Officer Roz Brewer said in a December 2020 interview at the Forbes Healthcare Summit.

“And you come into this beautiful lobby and there are eight exam rooms with two physicians and a staff,” Brewer added. “And they can do the testing that you need that day when they take a blood sample or urinalysis, and you can manage that right in the building and then walk over and get your script done. That’s our goal.”

Much Has Changed for Walgreens Physician Venture
But new Walgreens Chief Executive Tim Wentworth says VillageMD’s doctor-staffed clinic expansion plan now needs to go “on a diet” because it expanded too fast and couldn’t draw enough patients in certain markets, including Chicago.

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