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Retail Chain Deals to Improve Patient Care Access, Care Coordination

A partnership with Anthem will cut costs while improving patient care access, while a deal with the VA will support better care coordination.

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Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- A new partnership between healthcare payer Anthem and Walmart will improve patient care and more affordable access to over-the-counter (OTC) medications.

The program, set to launch in January 2019, will allow beneficiaries of Anthem’s Medicare Advantage plans to access Walmart OTC medications using OTC allowances. This will cut down on the out-of-pocket costs patients incur when purchasing these medications.

Patients may also use the OTC allowances to purchase first aid kits, supportive braces, and pain relievers.

OTC allowances will be accepted at any of the 4,700 Walmart stores nationwide, as well as on the retailer’s online shop.

This partnership comes as a part of Anthem’s efforts to improve patient access to care, care coordination, and patient healthcare financial experience, according to Felicia Norwood, the payer’s executive vice president and president of Government Business Division.

“Creating a better healthcare future requires us to think differently about how we can develop innovative and meaningful healthcare solutions for consumers,” Norwood explained.

“We are pleased to join with Walmart to create an initiative that combines Anthem’s deep understanding of the needs of senior consumers, with Walmart’s unwavering commitment to saving people money and developing a seamless shopping experience,” she continued. “We believe that programs like this can make a tremendous difference for healthcare consumers who often live on a fixed income or are managing chronic medical conditions.”

Walmart representatives echoed those sentiments, stating that healthcare should be more affordable for all patients, especially those managing chronic illness.

“Walmart is committed to making healthcare more affordable and accessible, and we are in constant pursuit of new ways to deliver on this commitment,” said Sean Slovenski, senior vice president of Health and Wellness at Walmart US. “We are thrilled to be working with Anthem to provide its Medicare Advantage members with convenient access to our broad assortment of high-quality over-the counter products – all available at everyday low prices.”

Retail chains across the country are partnering with healthcare organizations to reduce patient drug costs.

Walgreens, for example, has recently developed a relationship with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that aims to improve care coordination between the health system and the pharmacy provider.

Specifically, the deal would allow VA providers to see all of their patients’ pharmaceutical histories for all medications purchased at a Walmart pharmacy.

Currently, VA providers must ask patients to self-report their medication histories for any community care providers. This can open the door for errors or incomplete medical histories. It is also inefficient and puts the onus on the patient to coordinate her own care.

This latest program will rely on standards-based medical information that can seamlessly transfer between the VA and Walgreens. The VA uses similar standards-based programs to exchange information with its community care partners.

The program will also update VA providers on patient immunization records when the patient has received an immunization from a Walgreens pharmacy. This builds on previous Walgreens-VA programs that have sought to improve veteran access to preventive care at a lower cost.

According to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, this partnership is a step in the right direction for improving the care experience for veterans.

“This arrangement is the first of its kind and it’s a strong collaboration,” Wilkie said in a statement. “Partnerships like this will help VA continue to improve the way we care for Veterans.”

The VA program is currently limited to Walgreens pharmacy locations, meaning that patients filling their prescriptions with other community pharmacists will still have to self-report their own medication histories. VA offered no indication whether it will expand this partnership with other community pharmacy options.

These announcements come as healthcare industry stakeholders set their sights on decreasing patient healthcare costs. Patient financial responsibility is at an all-time high, and much of that is due to the high cost of medications. Efforts to decrease out-of-pocket drug costs for Medicare patients is a high priority, as industry professionals see these patients incur high costs due to the prevalence of complex chronic care management plans.

Correction, 8/23: A previous version of this story stated the Anthem partnership was with retail chain Walgreens. The partnership is with Walmart.

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