Walgreen, Other Pharmacies Form Nationwide Network

The Associated Press

Walgreen Co. and some independent drugstores are investing in a nationwide push to give pharmacists a chance to work more with patients to improve care and cut costs.

The drugstores have invested in RxAlly, a Leesburg, Va., private company that is launching a network involving 20,000 pharmacies focused on better care coordination.

The network aims to help pharmacists work more with patients in several ways. That includes coordinating prescription refills, making sure the drugs a patient takes don't conflict or talking to a patient about the importance of taking medicines correctly, according to a statement from RxAlly.

Pharmacists in this network also will start delivering immunizations outside of flu shots, a spokeswoman for the new company said.

RxAlly will pay pharmacists for the additional work, after receiving a payment from health insurers. RxAlly said some pharmacies are already performing the additional care coordination, and it expects to expand the model nationally in the next few quarters.

Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreen, the largest U.S. drugstore operator, is the biggest investor in RxAlly. Financial terms of the investment weren't disclosed. Its network does not include the drugstores of two national competitors of Walgreen, CVS Caremark Corp. or Rite Aid Corp.

Insurers and care providers have become more interested in improving care coordination over the last few years, as health care costs continue to grow. Last month, health insurer WellPoint Inc. said it will boost primary care reimbursement by paying for care management it doesn't currently cover.

Some providers also are forming accountable care organizations that coordinate care among doctors, specialists and hospitals.

Experts say better care coordination cuts down on costs and improves care by reducing errors and expensive test duplication. With prescription drugs, people who stay on medications for a chronic illness are less likely to become seriously ill and require an expensive emergency room visit or hospital stay.

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