Homeward, Rite Aid team-up to support seniors in rural areas

Rite Aid pharmacists will be able to introduce Medicare-eligible customers to Homeward's clinical services, including annual wellness visits, screenings, and risk assessments.

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The rural care provider Homeward announced a strategic partnership with Rite Aid to provide access to comprehensive care for those living in rural areas across the U.S.

Beginning this summer, Homeward and Rite Aid will partner to connect underserved seniors with providers and other clinical services. Rite Aid pharmacists will be able to introduce Medicare-eligible customers to Homeward’s clinical services, including annual wellness visits, screenings, and risk assessments. In addition, Rite Aid will host Homeward’s mobile care units at select rural Michigan locations to provide care and services to underserved communities with the goal of expanding to additional markets nationwide.

Why does it matter?

To date, much of the innovation in healthcare has been applied only to urban populations, leaving rural populations saddled with widespread hospital closures and physician shortages, both of which exacerbate health disparities, significantly poorer clinical outcomes and higher total costs. To address these significant gaps, Homeward announced plans to provide high-quality, accessible care for the 60 million Americans living in rural communities using a unique, hybrid model that is designed to meet their distinctive needs.

Similarly, Rite Aid is focused on improving healthcare in underserved rural communities.

Homeward deploys an integrated care model that combines mobile, community-based care with centralized clinical oversight and ongoing care management. Homeward providers see members both in community-based, mobile clinics and in members’ homes, as preferred. Homeward care teams conduct physical exams, perform basic diagnostic tests, and when needed, refer members to regional health systems and specialists if more complicated diagnostics are required. Homeward’s technology-enabled care model also includes virtual visits and in-home, cellular-based remote monitoring that keeps patients connected to their multidisciplinary care team.

Homeward will provide in-network services, including primary care and specialty care beginning with cardiology, in Q3 2022 for individuals covered by Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans. The company will set aside the fee-for-service model – which defaults to in-clinic care settings and limits the ability to leverage new, innovative technology and services – in favor of a value-based, total capitation model.

On the record

“As we rearchitect health and care for rural Americans, we must consider the specific needs of millions living in these communities and so-called healthcare deserts. In these areas, we can’t assume that ‘if you build it, they will come.’ Instead, we’re creating convenient opportunities for care within the daily lives and routines of rural Americans,” said Dr. Jennifer Schneider, CEO, Homeward. “Rite Aid is a highly recognized and trusted pharmacy services company with rural locations that serve many thousands of people every day. Through our partnership, we’ll be able to connect individuals to our services as we improve access to critical, frontline services in these communities.”

“Rite Aid is deeply committed to improving the lives of our customers with expanded pharmacy and healthcare services in underserved rural communities,” said Rite Aid President and CEO Heyward Donigan. “We are proud to support the innovative work that Homeward is doing to introduce a new, hybrid care model that will play a critical role in our customers’ health journeys.”

The context

Pharmacists are among the most trusted members of a local community – especially for the more than 50% of Americans living with a chronic condition. Today, Rite Aid has over 6,300 pharmacists across 2,300 locations, including 700 pharmacy locations in rural areas, many of which are healthcare deserts with limited access to doctors and hospitals.