Walgreens Ups the Ante in Retail Health

by | Mar 18, 2008

Yesterday, mega-pharmacy chain Walgreens announced that it will acquire I-trax and Whole Health Management. With this acquisition, Walgreens is moving beyond its recent venture into retail clinics in its stores, to clinics hosted on-site at major employers.

walgreens2.jpgThe adjacent figure, which I found in their investors’ presentation, makes it quite clear that Walgreens is moving beyond the pharmacy model in delivering care to the consumer and could well become a major competitor to more traditional care providers such as physician practices, hospitals, etc.

walgreens1.jpgBased on Walgreens’ numbers, it also looks like an attractive market with a lot of upside growth opportunities.

Both I-trax and Whole Health Management have created a wide range of service offerings for the delivery of care and each have an impressive list of clients (in excess of 180) that include BMW, Continental Airlines, Disney, Goldman-Sachs, Nissan and Toyota. Both acquired companies provided very similar on-site health services including primary care, pharmacies, health risk assessments, disease management and wellness coaching.  In acquiring these companies, Walgreens extends the Brand from your neighborhood to your workplace and gets a jump on both CVS and Wal-Mart, who are each still focused on in-store health service offerings.

One of the interesting aspects of the two acquired companies is that when I looked through their respective websites, I did not see any references to digital health records, in particular Personal Health Records (PHRs). Curious as many PHRs in the market today have offerings that include health risk assessments, education, disease management, in short, similar offerings, albeit via the Web, that I-trax an Whole Health are offering.  This got me to thinking about a previous post I did on whether or not WebMD was an acquisition target nd if yes, who potential suitors might be and why. I did get a harsh comment on that post, but maybe “Jake” also missed something. There are a wide range of potential suitors for WebMD, including one of these large retailers.

For example, a company like Walgreens could see a lot of upside by adding WebMD to its stable of offerings for employer clients. WebMD would bring additional employer clients, an Internet-based service that dovetails nicely with existing solutions and another vehicle for branding and marketing. Then again, a company like CVS or Wal-Mart might also benefit. So, add another one to the list of potential buyers for WebMD. Would give these three a medium-high probability of acquiring WebMD as the synergies are certainly there, particularly for Walgreens.



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