Hopkins, Walgreens partner on East Baltimore pharmacy

Johns Hopkins Medicine and Walgreens are collaborating on a new drugstore that is expected to open by the end of the year in East Baltimore, the partners announced Thursday.

"We'll hopefully use the store to develop programs, deliver them to the community and then expand" the programs to other Walgreens stores, said Mark Shaver, senior director of business development and strategic alliances for Hopkins Medicine.

The pharmacy chain and the Hopkins health system see the partnership as an opportunity to develop clinical and health care resource practices that can be implemented at Walgreens locations throughout the United States. The East Baltimore store, they say, will help improve patient care at pharmacy counters and in-store clinics, which they see as critical to the future of health care.

In addition to the traditional retail options of most Walgreens, the 11,500-square-foot store in the ground-level space of the parking structure at Ashland Avenue and North Washington Street will sell an expanded offering of fresh food, Walgreens said.

It also will be the first Walgreens in Maryland with a clinic staffed by nurse practitioners, collaborating with Hopkins primary care physicians, who will be available for urgent, non-emergency care. Walgreens has clinics in more than 370 stores in 20 states, said Jim Cohn, a spokesman for the Deerfield, Ill.-based retailer.

"We'll have the ability to influence what are the key programs being offered" at the East Baltimore store, Shaver said.

Both the larger selection of healthy food, including fresh fruit and vegetables, salads, sandwiches and prepared meals, and extended, night-and-weekend hours for the clinic were requested by Hopkins, he said, to accommodate the community. East Baltimore has limited options for groceries and the large population of students near Johns Hopkins Hospital will benefit from longer hours, he said.

Beyond providing services tailored to the neighborhoods surrounding Johns Hopkins Hospital, Walgreens and Hopkins expect the pharmacy will be a place to develop and examine new health care programs.

"We see this as a sort of lab," said Dr. Jay Rosan, Walgreens' senior vice president of health innovation. "The opportunity is really pretty unique because we have the opportunity to collaborate … to develop innovative care, reduce costs and improve access."

The partnership's initiatives have the potential to reach a huge number of people, Shaver said. Walgreens' reach is one of the reasons Hopkins wanted to collaborate with the retailer, he said. Health innovations stemming from the East Baltimore pharmacy could allow Hopkins to extend its influence on the delivery of health care nationwide, Shaver said.

Walgreens operates more than 8,000 stores in all 50 states and employs roughly 75,000 health care professionals, Cohn said. It reported $71.6 billion in sales last year.

An advisory board of clinicians from Hopkins and Walgreens will meet regularly to discuss and analyze programs being implemented at the East Baltimore store, Rosan said. Chronic disease education and awareness is one area where the partners would like to make strides, he said.

Both Hopkins and Walgreens believe pharmacy-based health care is going to play an increasingly important role in the U.S. heath system. With the cost of care rising consistently, clinics like the one Walgreens and Hopkins are planning will help reduce prices, they say.

For instance, in-pharmacy clinics could reduce the number of non-emergency trips to the emergency rooms, Shaver said.

Walgreens points to the steep increase in the number of people getting vaccines at its stores as evidence of the importance of increasing access to basic health services.

During the last two flu seasons, more than 20 percent of flu shots administered in the U.S. were given at a pharmacy or other retailer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During the 2008-2009 season, less than 10 percent of flu shots were provided at retailers, the statistics show.

The East Baltimore store is an extension of a partnership that Hopkins and Walgreens launched in May 2011.

Since the beginning of the partnership, Hopkins and Walgreens have developed a training program about high cholesterol that has been taken by 27,000 Walgreens pharmacists and pharmacy managers. They are jointly developing clinical protocols for nurse practitioners and physician assistants at Walgreens clinics to follow, Cohn said.

"Our collaboration with Walgreens creates the opportunity to offer innovative, locally-based health care services," said Dr. Paul Rothman, dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine, in a statement.

"We will also use the lessons learned from this collaboration beyond our community, as Johns Hopkins Medicine continues to set the standard for medical education, research and patient care on a national scale and around the world," Rothman said.



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