Kroger Health, the healthcare division of the large grocery chain, announced Tuesday it had launched a clinical trial site network.
The company said it will work with trial sponsors, contract research organizations and health systems to conduct clinical trials out of select Kroger pharmacies and clinics. It will also use virtual care and digital health tools to ensure patients stay enrolled in clinical trials.
Alongside the announcement, Kroger revealed its first clinical trial is currently recruiting patients. The company is working with Persephone Biosciences on a study that aims to find microbiome-based biomarkers that could hint at colorectal cancer. Kroger said it will enroll an initial cohort of 55 people, but it plans to expand to new locations with more participants over the next year.
“With our team of more than 24,000 healthcare professionals, under the umbrella of America’s grocer, we are positioned at the nexus of food and healthcare, which provides us with the unique opportunity to increase accessibility to clinical trial opportunities,” Colleen Lindholz, Kroger Health president, said in a statement. “As a trusted community healthcare destination, we envision a future where our work transforms the clinical trial landscape and provides expanded trial access to the people we serve.”
THE LARGER TREND
Other retail outlets have launched their own clinical trial offerings, arguing they can improve access and diversity in clinical research.
In 2021, CVS Health announced its Clinical Trial Services business, which would work to recruit patients, help run studies and generate real-world evidence. Early last year, CVS announced a partnership with decentralized clinical trial company Medable to power its services.
Walgreens has also stepped into the clinical trials space, announcing its business over the summer. The company said it would use both in-person and virtual care as well as technology resources to execute studies.
Retail players like Walgreens, CVS, Walmart and Amazon are increasingly pushing into care delivery. Kroger’s Lindholz told Healthcare IT News pharmacists could play a larger role in working with patients, including by educating on chronic conditions, coaching on smoking cessation or diet compliance, and discussing disease prevention strategies.
“Despite the average American living within five miles of a pharmacy, pharmacists remain one of the most underutilized healthcare resources in their communities. The good news is we are seeing a shift in the perception of pharmacists that goes beyond medication dispensing,” she said. “Leveraging their exceptional training and education, pharmacists are poised to become the core of community healthcare.”