Walgreens, Cariloop bring MS care coaches into select neurology-specialty pharmacies

Walgreens unveiled a new partnership with Cariloop to unite the capabilities of Walgreens pharmacists and Cariloop’s care coaches to support those living with multiple sclerosis and their caregivers.

By using Cariloop’s platform hosting professional coaching services and cloud-based tools, those living with MS and their caregivers are supported by medical professionals who can help them navigate healthcare. Cariloop has been in the caregiver game for a decade but sees the new partnership as a way to connect with pharmacies, which Wendy Whittington, chief care officer at Cariloop, sees as the cornerstone of the modern healthcare experience.

“Primary care used to be the healthcare glue,” Whittington told Fierce Healthcare. “We're seeing more and more that those centers where patients and caregivers get the most service are gravitating to the pharmacies. There's a lot more going on there so our job is to just help the patient get what they need with the least possible resistance.”   

The partnership will begin phase one this year by starting with select Walgreens neurology-specialty pharmacies. Walgreens pharmacists will help complement Cariloop’s care coaches by creating connections and facilitating on-the-ground support.

For phase two, metrics like increased medication adherence and improved outcomes, or even the health and stress of caregivers, will be measured. For now, Whittington says the partnership is primarily focused on bringing users onto the platform.

Currently, the platform is primarily accessed as an employee benefit by caregivers supporting others with a whole range of challenges from navigating college prep to cancer and nutrition. By expanding to specialty pharmacies, Cariloop will begin supporting patients themselves and connecting with brick-and-mortar locals.

Whittington imagines an MS patient on the phone with their specialty pharmacist talking about their new medication. Maybe they’re worried about how they're going to manage the dosing schedule or how they’re going to pick it up on time, she noted.

“And that's when the pharmacist says, ‘Boy, let me connect you to your dedicated Cariloop care coach who's going to help you with all of those things that are outside the box of traditional health care'," she said.

Cariloop’s care coach team is comprised of experienced healthcare professionals including registered nurses, occupational therapists and clinical social workers who supplement their previous medical education with Cariloop’s training aimed at decreasing even the most mundane barriers to care, “like finding a specialist that’s on your bus loop,” Whittington said.

Walgreens neurology-specialty pharmacies in seven states have been chosen for the pilot group of patients. These pharmacies are oftentimes located near medical offices and therefore receive medications faster than the industry average, along with additional services like injection training and financial assistance, according to Cariloop.

Walgreens’ leg up in community-based specialty pharmacies creates a strong connection with patients managing chronic conditions like MS, HIV, cancer, infertility and cystic fibrosis. As the pilot stage winds down at the end of the year, the next program evolution opens up the possibility to support new populations navigating complex, outpatient care.

“There's a box that is the four walls of traditional healthcare, and where our care coaches work is around all the edges of that box,” Whittington said. “There's so much more that goes into keeping someone healthy that you can't access in our traditional, very fragmented healthcare system. I mean, it's bad enough in the inpatient world, but when you're outpatient, it's crazyville.”

Walgreens stepped fully into the specialty pharmaceuticals game in September 2022 with the $1.37 billion purchase of specialty pharmacy Shields. It is one of many chain retail pharmacy companies looking to expand its place in healthcare through partnering with healthcare service apps.

Walmart shared a similar announcement focusing on supporting caregivers in January. The megastore teamed up with Avanlee Care, an app used by caregivers to help loved ones aging at home, to promote the use of the platform through Walmart pharmacies.