NEW YORK— In September, Northwell Health and Walgreens announced a five-year strategic partnership to improve population health and advance health equity in New York communities by expanding digital and retail health services to Walgreens consumers and Northwell patients and employees.
What this means is that Northwell Health’s telehealth services will be available through Walgreens' Find Care platform, and Walgreens’ pharmacy services will become an in-network benefit for Northwell employees. The move follows a trend in which health systems are partnering with retail health companies because they offer something health systems lack, convenience and accessibility, according to a recent eMarketer analysis.
For example, CVS’ MinuteClinics are affiliated with nearly 60 health systems across 27 states (including Northwell Health), and Walmart’s employee health-focused Centers of Excellence program partners with 17 health systems, the analysis noted.

Indeed, Walgreens itself has 19 partnerships with health systems to operate its retail health clinics.

The key, it seems, is convenience, with 77 percent of U.S. consumers having one or more prescriptions that require regular pharmacy visits, and of those, 56 percent said they would consider retail health visits, per an Upshow 2021 survey.

It’s not hard to imagine why so many consumers are interested in using retail health clinics for healthcare visits: Around half of retail health appointments happen after hours—which is often more convenient than appointments at health system locations during normal business hours, according to eMarketer’s report.

Not many consumers trust retail healthcare players yet: 27 percent of U.S. adults said they don’t really trust retail health clinics, per a May 2021 national poll by Morning Consult.

Note that eMarketer estimates that retail clinic patients will grow to 69.5 million (26.4 percent of the U.S. population) by 2022—up from 48.7 million (19.2 percent of the U.S. population) in 2018.