Read the full report (PDF)
A new report finds that Walgreen’s attempts to “revolutionize” the pharmacy may pose risks to patient privacy, medication accuracy and drug security. The new pharmacy model, named “Well Experience,” takes the pharmacist out of the traditional prescription fill work area and into a public space in front of the pharmacy. The out-in-front pharmacist remotely monitors the pharmacy technicians and checks the accuracy of prescriptions using photos and video displayed on a computer screen. Researchers made 100 visits to 50 Well Experience stores in Illinois, Indiana, and Florida to observe the model.
Based on the study’s findings, CtW has filed a complaint with the US Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) alleging widespread breaches of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Survey’s Results Raise Doubts about Balance Rewards’ Impact on Sales;
Gives Insight into Recapture of Express Scripts Customers.
A new nationwide poll of more than 2,000 Walgreens (NYSE, NASDAQ: WAG) shoppers raises concerns about the effectiveness of the company’s Balance Rewards loyalty program in changing consumer behavior. Despite Balance Rewards’ impressive membership growth since its September 2012 launch, the poll points to problems with the program’s design that may be limiting customer engagement and participation.
Key findings include:
- No clear impact on changes in spending. Among regular Walgreens shoppers, Balance Rewards members are no more likely than non-members to say they have increased their spending at Walgreens.
- Not meeting members’ demands for savings. Only 16 percent of members believe they have saved a significant amount of money with the program, and three-quarters of members say that the program’s deals do not fit with items they usually buy.
- Points redemption and accumulation difficult. Twenty-one percent of members report having redeemed Balance Rewards points. More than two-thirds (69 percent) of members say it is not easy to earn rewards.
- Balance Rewards points don’t pay off. Based on customer-reported estimates of membership spending and points accumulation, the average Balance Rewards member is earning less than one cent for every dollar spent at Walgreens after six months of participation in the program—less than half of what CVS ExtraCare reports its members receive.
Complaint Filed with US Dept. of Health and Human Services Alleging HIPAA Violations; Report Based on 100 “Well Experience” Store Observations
Washington, DC, September 23, 2013—Walgreens’ attempts to revolutionize the pharmacy may increase risks of medication errors and patient privacy violations, according to a new study by Change to Win Retail Initiatives (CtW). The report titled Behind the Desk uses data from 100 observations of Walgreens’ “Well Experience” pharmacy model in 50 stores located in Florida, Illinois, and Indiana. Based on the study’s findings, CtW filed a complaint alleging numerous breaches of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) with the US Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR).
“The right to privacy is an essential element of quality health care, and Well Experience appears to have fundamental flaws in its design and execution that warrant regulatory action,” said Deborah C. Peel, MD, Founder and Chair of Patient Privacy Rights, a leading national health care privacy organization. “As the nation’s largest drug chain, Walgreens should know that playing fast and loose with sensitive, protected patient information is not only wrong but also illegal.”
CtW’s investigation details significant problems with Well Experience, including:
- Violations of patient privacy. In 80 percent of stores visited, sensitive, HIPAA-protected patient information, such as medical histories, was left unattended and visible to customers in the pharmacy area.
- Inadequate medication security. Prescription medicine—in one case hydrocodone—was left unattended and within the reach of customers in 46 percent of stores visited.
- Increased pharmacist distractions. Field researchers observed nearly 150 distractions and interruptions to pharmacists that were unique to the Well Experience pharmacy model’s design —over one third of the total number observed. Interruptions and distractions are associated with increased medication errors.
- Low rates of patient counseling. Field researchers observed an average consultation rate of 8.2 percent in surveyed Well Experience pharmacies, despite Walgreens’ claims that the model increases counseling. Academic studies of chain pharmacies using secret shoppers found rates of 27 to 53 percent, Pharmacists are required by law to offer counseling for new prescriptions.