- Walgreens on Thursday launched Find Care Now, a digital marketplace aimed at connecting the retailer’s mobile and online visitors to its clinics and healthcare services as well as providers in communities across the U.S.
- The goal is to help consumers find convenient and lower-cost care such as urgent care centers co-located at Walgreens drugstores and telemedicine. The platform lists prices for services ranging from lab tests to an optometrist or hearing specialist to physician house calls and telehealth consultations.
- Currently, 17 providers are taking part, including Advocate Health Care, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, MedExpress Urgent Care and MDLive.
Price transparency efforts are heating up, and Walgreens is eager to boost its brand as a go-to source for convenient, cost-conscious care. Walgreens said the platform’s providers will offer “sensible alternatives to more costly emergency room visits.”
Despite growing calls for transparency around healthcare prices, few websites offer information that can help consumers make informed choices about their care. In an analysis by Duke University researchers on availability of price information for four nonemergency medical procedures, just 21.9% of 1,346 price transparency sites were relevant to the particular intervention, 28.4% linked to individual providers or clinics, 7.4% offered quality information but not prices, 27.6% offered generic information and 17.4% provided unrelated information.
Only 17% of the sites included geographically relevant price estimates. In addition, most websites didn't clarify whether the price quote referred to total cost or the consumer’s out-of-pocket cost.
Maryland is one of a handful of states trying to increase transparency around healthcare pricing. Last fall, the Maryland Health Care Commission launched a statewide campaign called Wear the Cost to let consumers compare costs of four common procedures: hip replacement, knee replacement, hysterectomy and vaginal delivery. The program was recently expanded to include price and quality data based on commercial insurer data from 2015 and 2016.
This Walgreens effort could also bolster CMS as it pursues requiring hospitals to post prices online, and it could push patients more toward shopping around for care. Walmart is increasingly becoming a competitor in this area. It recently picked up Sharecare’s patient engagement platform and hired Sean Slovenski, former vice president of innovation at Humana, to lead its health unit.
CVS, which is in the process of acquiring Aetna, is working with Epic to increase visibility around lower-cost drug options using enhanced data analytics.
The Walgreens effort builds on arrangements the chain already has with some of the participating providers. In December, the company teamed up with Optum’s MedExpress to open urgent care centers attached to Walgreens stores in five markets. That same month, Walgreens partnered with NYP to offer telemedicine services at self-service kiosks at select Duane Read drugstores in New York and through the Walgreens website.
Consumers can access the marketplace 24/7 via the Health Services section of the Walgreens mobile app or online at www.walgreens.com/findcarenow.