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Report: Walgreen Well Experience privacy practices investigated

Deerfield Park, Ill. -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights is reportedly investigating privacy practices at the new Well Experience stores run by Walgreens. According to the Wall Street Journal, the investigation is focusing on whether pharmacist consultations with customers at Well Experience Stores violate the privacy of patient medical data.

The investigation was reportedly spurred by a complaint filed by the non-profit group Change to Win Retail Initiatives. In summer 2013, undercover investigators from Change to Win reportedly visited 100 Walgreens stores and observed widespread violations of patient privacy. The compliant focuses on the Well Experience stores having pharmacists work from desks in high-traffic areas of stores and frequently leave them to consult with customers and supervise pharmacy technicians. This allegedly leaves sensitive patient data in open view and unattended on the desks.

Maryland, Connecticut and Hawaii do not allow the Well Express store format, and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to Walgreens in Oct. 2013 asking if the format violated patient privacy. In a written response to Markey’s letter, Walgreens said it takes appropriate security steps. A Walgreens spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal the Well Express format has been approved by the pharmacy boards of more than 30 states, modifying it when necessary, and is cooperating fully with the investigation.