Bringing Back the Neighborhood Pharmacy
Helping a retail chain build healthier relationships with customers
Shift customer perception of the brand from a nondescript convenience store to a trusted source for health-related needs.
The innovative Well Experience format, with private consultation rooms, pharmacists out on the pharmacy floor, and Take Care clinics.
In 1901, Charles R. Walgreen, Sr., opened up a small neighborhood pharmacy on Chicago’s South Side. Today, Walgreens is the largest drug retail chain in the US with more than 8,200 locations in all 50 states. As healthcare reform has become top of mind in the US and patient-centered care increasingly the norm, Walgreens sees its scale as an opportunity to rethink the role of the community pharmacy in the 21st century. The company collaborated with IDEO to redesign its pharmacy experience in order to foster rich, trust-based relationships between customers and the most highly trained medical professionals on staff—pharmacists.
Most Americans—75 percent—live within 5 miles of a Walgreens. With the Affordable Care Act bringing millions more Americans into the healthcare system, Walgreens’ proximity and reach provided a big opportunity to become a convenient and trusted touchpoint for patients outside of hospitals and doctors’ offices, especially those suffering from chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. The challenge: Use design to shift customer perception of Walgreens from just another convenience store to a local place at “the corner of happy and healthy,” where customers could receive everyday health and wellness advice. In other words, bring Charles R. Walgreen’s vision of a community pharmacy to unprecedented scale.
We are deliberately transforming the way we practice pharmacy from a transaction-based environment to one that is more about patient relationships.
Kermit Crawford, Walgreens President of Pharmacy, Health and Wellness Services and Solutions, Drug Store News
The new pharmacy seamlessly integrates new roles, digital tools, and spaces.
IDEO built out two full-size prototypes of a reimagined Walgreens pharmacy designed to cultivate better relationships between customers and pharmacists. Key to building good relationships were private consultation rooms that allowed for close conversations, and friendly health guides that helped customers browse over-the-counter medications or schedule “take care” appointments. Pharmacists, usually barricaded behind their high counter at the rear of the store, were now positioned out on the pharmacy floor, ready to listen and—most important—ensure continuity of care.
"Patients are engaging with pharmacists even more often to ask about everything—including their medication, health conditions, and prescription regimens," said Nimest Jhaveri, Divisional Vice President, Pharmacy Transformation.
The new Well Experience format was launched in two pilot locations in Chicago just a few months after the prototypes were built. Combining IDEO’s pharmacy work with Walgreens’ new approaches to beauty products, fresh food, and online shopping, 750 Well Experience locations have opened in the US and Puerto Rico—including 14 flagship stores in major cities—and an additional 1,000 are planned for the coming years.
Walgreens is also expanding the scope of its Take Care Clinics, which are usually staffed by nurses or physician’s assistants, to include the diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of chronic diseases such as diabetes that are typically handled by doctors. The company considers its Well Experience pharmacies a work in progress and plans to keep evolving the design based on customer feedback.