USA — Walgreens has eliminated task-based metrics for its retail pharmacy staff, which means that pharmacists are no longer evaluated based on how fast they work.

According to Walgreens, the change will affect over 24,000 pharmacists, and the retailer claims that its employees will be able to focus more on patient care and outcomes.

The metrics will be removed from team members’ performance evaluations. Instead, the company stated that pharmacists will be evaluated based on behaviors that support patient care and improve the patient experience.

Walgreens is also “laying the groundwork” for pharmacists to participate in new areas of care, such as testing and treating routine illness.

Furthermore, Walgreens may be making the change to retain its pharmacy staff during a time when the job market has tightened.

Over the last few years, the Great Resignation has caused many Americans to quit their jobs or leave roles in search of new opportunities.

Exodus from the healthcare industry has been particularly severe as a result of the pandemic. In order to attract and retain talent, healthcare organizations have raised wages and improved benefits.

Since 2019, Walgreens has increased the starting wage for hourly employees and made other investments, including US$190 million in premium pay and bonuses for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in fiscal year 2022.

In fiscal year 2023, Walgreens plans to invest an additional US$265 million in pharmacy staff. The move is part of an effort at Walgreens to move deeper into healthcare and build relationships with patients.

The company has been adding primary-care centers in some of its US locations as well.

“We’re proud to take a strong position in the industry with this measure, one we are taking due to feedback from our pharmacy team members and also as part of our commitment to pharmacy quality and patient care,” said Holly May, Walgreens’ executive vice president, and global chief human resources officer.

Walgreens also noted it has increased pay for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians and provided additional bonuses and implemented a merit-based review process for 2022 that includes compensation increases or lump sum payments for pharmacists.

In addition, Walgreens has invested in automation technology, including eight micro-fulfillment centers, to reduce prescription fulfillment in stores and give pharmacy staff more time to provide clinical services and patient consultations rather than pill counting.

In a separate development, Walgreens Boots Alliance’s VillageMD has announced a new US$8.9 billion merger deal with Summit Health, the operator of medical care centers.

The network of care centers, which includes Summit Health, the parent company of urgent care provider CityMD, has 680 locations in 26 markets across the United States.

The announcement comes at a time when retailers are heavily investing in and incorporating health care into their offerings.

Amazon announced in July that it would pay US$3.9 billion for primary care clinic operator One Life Healthcare.

Amazon already owns and operates the digital pharmacy PillPack, which it paid US$750 million for in 2019.

In September, Aetna-owner CVS Health acquired home health care service Signify Health for US$8 billion.

Walgreens is attempting to become more of a healthcare destination, similar to its competitors, and this latest major investment demonstrates the drugstore giant’s growing interest in providing healthcare services to its customers.

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