Service Is The Most Ignored Form of Efficacy II

We have posted previously about how pharma companies need to begin to understand the importance of servicing their patients. Well, in today’s Wall Street Journal Health blog, Walgreen’s seems to have gone one better at this, by making an acquisition that enables them to begin putting healthcare centers in the workplace. This merits a closer look.

Here’s the relevant part of the story:

Walgreen execs said yesterday that the company’s buying a shop called I-trax for about $260 million and another company called Whole Health Management for an undisclosed amount, the WSJ reports.

After the deal goes through, Walgreen will have more than 500 health
centers, including both its existing retail clinics and the on-site
health centers its buying, the WSJ says. I-trax provides worksite
health services for more than 160 employers, including familiar names
such as Lowe’s and Toyota. Whole Health Management has work site
centers for Continental Airlines and Sprint Nextel Corp., among others.

From an RM perspective, this is fascinating. Given how new this model is, there’s more than a little speculation in thinking about it, but the implications of this could be enormous.

First, it removes many of the compliance barriers that might otherwise keep a patient from simply renewing a prescription or seeking medical advice. When, literally, there is a physician and a pharmacy right down the hall, any systemic friction that inhibits engagement with the healthcare system is substantially decreased.

Second, it also significantly rearranges the channel structure of pharma marketing. The current, classic system in which a patient receives a prescription from a physician then purchases drugs at a pharmacy is a manufacturer to agent to retailer to consumer pipeline, with the physician essentially acting as the agent. In this case, if the physician and the retailer are on in the same, the channel structure changes into a simple manufacturer to retailer to customer.

Thid, and perhaps most interestingly of all, this innovation vastly increases the scope that Walgreen’s has to work more closely with pharma companies to create and maintain patient relationships. Because Walgreen’s represents many different pharma companies, they become, in some respects, the arbiters of the relationship — they have the opportunity to be the gatekeeper for a lot of patients, and if the physician is now in-house, in a much more comprehensive way than they ever have before. Ideally, this will lead to far better service and accessibility to healthcare, which will, in turn, enhance efficacy.

This has already happened in a lot of consumer markets. The same network of companies that helps you take care of your lawn (TruGreen) will help you with home repairs (Servicemaster), cleaning (Merry Maids) and so on. Enterprise Rent-a-Car will pick you up and deliver. Virgin airlines offers limo service to the airport. This is a version of that. It will be interesting to see how this all develops.

REALLY interesting.