It Takes a Village Interview: Giovanni Monti, SVP for Healthcare Services at WBA
Let’s See What the New Walgreens Is Doing
By Kevin Pereau
Lately, Walgreens has come to be known as the Walgreens Boots Alliance, or WBA.
If you live in most parts of America, you might think that CVS and Walgreens pharmacy stores are similar. They are all conveniently located, probably only a short drive from your home. They are surrounded by adequate parking and often equipped with drive-through windows where you can drop off and pick up prescriptions. And when you walk inside, you find a modern, spacious, and well-lit space where you can shop for cosmetics, health supplies, and even a range of goods that were sold principally in groceries, until recently. And of course, there is a pharmacy counter.
If you live or travel to other countries, however, you realize that Walgreens is global. In fact, Walgreens currently has more than 2,300 stores in the UK, more than 1,100 stores in Mexico, as well as stores in Chile, Thailand, Norway, the Netherlands, and even Lithuania.
So, one difference is that Walgreens is more of an international concern and therefore can harvest lessons learned in healthcare using global data points. But that is not the only difference, as we learn from Giovanni Monti, Senior Vice President, Healthcare Services for Walgreens Boots Alliance. When we interviewed Giovanni, he was in Italy where he lives and works. Walgreens has more than just stores throughout the world. Their leadership team represents their international flair as well.
“As the SVP for Healthcare Services at WBA,” Giovanni says, “I lead a business connecting individuals to healthcare solutions and services, providers, and payers, online and in their community. With teams in Chicago and Deerfield, Seattle, London and Nottingham, WBA Healthcare Services offers healthcare solutions via Walgreens Find Care, the care navigation and management digital platform, via neighborhood healthcare destinations that we are developing across Walgreens, and at Boots in the UK and in Europe.
“Solutions comprise primary care partnerships, including Village MD, LabCorp, weight management solutions from Jenny Craig, digital therapeutics and connected care products, pharmacogenomics and a number of other health services.
“Prior to leading WBA Healthcare Services, I co-founded WBA Healthcare Innovation Platform, that I continue to lead, which has developed healthcare innovations across the U.S. and Europe. I joined WBA as Director of Corporate Development and M&A in 2012, with previous experience in corporate development, M&A, and management consulting.
“I represent WBA on boards of selected US healthcare investments, and I am a member of the Advisory Board of the Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Management Program at Columbia Business School. I hold a Degree in Economic and Social Sciences from Bocconi University, Milan, and both a master’s in business administration (MBA) from Columbia Business School and a Master of International Affairs (MIA) from the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, New York.
“I lead healthcare services for Walgreens Boots Alliance. I’m an economist by training. I’ve worked in a number of different roles in corporate development, always from a proprietary perspective, building new businesses and solutions. I Live on the West Coast now but was on the East Coast for a masters and other studies. I joined the group in 2012. I have had a number of different roles – in the beginning, mostly in corporate development. The more I learned about what was happening in healthcare, the more I became really passionate about how healthcare innovation could help people and extend the role of pharmacies into broader healthcare.
“I started pushing for a few different healthcare solutions, whether it was point-of-care technology or genomics or new tech-enabled healthcare services. And I guess the company liked it, because after a while I created what is called the Healthcare Platform – a global team that I still run. After a while, we started to build a healthcare marketplace in the US. I was really focusing back then on digital healthcare in the US.
“At some point, the company decided to bring together healthcare and digital, which is when they asked me to lead healthcare services, including all the partnerships that we have with Village MD and a number of other partners.”
How WBA Uses Data
Giovanni and his team are doing more and more to develop a better view of customers and serve them better. Among his team’s innovations are something called a Health Outcomes Pharmacist. This program plays a special role, managing people whose data earmarks them as being more at risk than other Walgreens customers.
Based on that data, a determination is made about whether there is anything that Walgreens needs to do in a number of areas, including medications, arrangements with payers, and more. “That’s all data-driven, “Giovanni explains. “And it relies on the ability not just to read and analyze data, but to share it across the various partners of the healthcare continuum.”
And innovative thinking continues to evolve. For example, WBA has just announced an agreement with Adobe. The goal is to help Walgreens develop an even more precise, personalized, and inclusive view of customers, that will bring together data from every interaction with them. “Across immunization . . . everything” Giovanni says, “with the goal of developing a more personalized engagement with customers.”
Village Medical and the Changing Role of the Primary Care Provider
To make Walgreen stores personalized and impactful on health outcomes, Giovanni and his team have decided that the primary care provider is the place to start.
They have decided that primary care providers can have the biggest impact on the lives of healthcare consumers. And something else too. Primary care providers can also have the greatest impact on all the other entities that operate within the healthcare ecosystem. They work with patients, with pharmacies, with healthcare plans, and with everyone else.
That explains why Walgreens has recently made a big investment in Village MD, with a goal of soon having between 500 and 700 co-located Village Medical clinics installed in Walgreens stores.
“Village is where we’ll develop that integration between primary care and pharmacy,” Giovanni explains. “And it is not just a physical co-location, but an integration across all the channels that we have available. Because the care we are delivering – and we want to deliver more and more, again with Village MD – is where it makes sense for individuals. It can be through our APP, at home, in the co-located practices. We’re excited. We have just announced it, and it also fits very well with the title of your book.”
Walgreens Find Care
Walgreens has also launched a new app called Walgreens Find Care. In concept, it is more than just an app – it is a digital healthcare marketplace that end-users carry around with them on their phones.
Giovanni and his development team see it as the digital, interactive front door to healthcare where customers will find care based on who they are and the solutions they find will be from Walgreens and its partners. A broad selection of care will reside in the app, including general telehealth, acute care, specialist care, continuous glucose monitoring, and more.
“Regardless of whether we or our partners provide the solutions,” Giovanni says, “and regardless of whether online or through physical services or a lab, it’s all driven by that personal understanding of the individual and what makes sense for him or her, based on their healthcare needs at that time. We believe that combining a personal digital front end with the most relevant personal healthcare interaction with the PCP can be a powerful way to increase access to healthcare through the most efficient channel, based on the specific need. And again, with the goal of ultimately improving outcome and reducing cost. In fact, we are focused on net promoter scores. We want an experience that is as pleasant as possible.”
Readiness and Responsiveness to Covid-19
“The investment we have made in building digital assets and the digital front door have been tremendously helpful over the last few months,” Giovanni says. “No one ever expected something like Covid-19. But thanks to how ready we were, in a matter of days we very significantly increased the offering of telehealth solutions. We launched a Covid-19 risk assessment tool, based on Microsoft. In a matter of days, we delivered COVID-19 drive-through tests because we had built the digital front end to reach the Walgreens customer.
“We’re making sure that we’re able to distribute all the equipment that’s necessary and needed in each country and jurisdiction. That we do all the testing that is required and possible. We are creating the necessary awareness and of course, we have done a huge amount just to keep pharmacies open every day in every community in the dozens of countries where we operate. A huge effort, but it’s been very much appreciated by our customers and everyone we deal with.
“Because of the pandemic, it is fascinating to see how healthcare has changed in just the last few months. It is going to change even more in the coming years, but it is already totally different. You have read about how many years healthcare has accelerated in just a few months. But we can see that awareness in the adoption of digital health solutions, and people’s willingness to interact with doctors online if desired, if needed. I think we have 14 times the number of users we had and not even in our most ambitious plans would we have expected that. And it’s not only that. It’s also the adoption of AI-powered solutions, it’s the adoption of what we just discussed earlier. The power of a point-of-care diagnostic. And how it’s been quickly deployed across different delivery channels, including Walgreens drive-throughs.”
It goes to show that the kind of digital solutions that Walgreens has developed will also help the company to adapt to any healthcare crises and needs that may arrive in the future.
The Changing Face of Digital Healthcare
Giovanni sums up Walgreens’ presence in the digital landscape . . .
“We started engaging people in a . . . I don’t want to say a modern way, that’s wrong. But in healthcare, like what has happened in travel and so many industries, people are expecting to interact using their smart phones. This will make technology even more important. And our partnership with Microsoft is enabling us to do so much more, and much more quickly. We are leveraging digital health technologies to make healthcare much more personal. It’s not just a doctor who is sitting in front of a computer. You really have your own interaction, powered by technology.
“In our Find Care app, there is a very rich partner and care roadmap. I think that roadmap, powered by technology, is becoming more personalized and predictive. Because the more we know about individuals, the more data-driven care becomes, the more relevant we can be in managing populations and partnering with a variety of players that bear the cost of management.”
About Giovanni Monti
Giovanni Monti, Senior Vice President and Director of Healthcare Innovation for Walgreens Boots Alliance (www.walgreens.com), the first global pharmacy led health and wellbeing enterprise. HIP’s innovations are consumer-centric connected care solutions deployed via WBA’s channels, including Walgreens in the United States and Boots in the UK. Prior to creating and leading the HIP, Mr. Monti was the director of corporate development and M&A at WBA, using his strong expertise in corporate development, M&A, and management consulting. He holds a degree in economic and social sciences from Bocconi University, Milan, an MBA from Columbia Business School and an MIA (master of international affairs) from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.
Follow Giovanni Monti on LinkedIn.
You can read the full interview with Giovanni in Kevin’s book, It Takes a Village – Click here to get it on Amazon.