Walgreens, the Deerfield, Ill.-based retail giant, announced Jan. 11 that it's selling all 56 of its in-store Healthcare Clinics in the Chicago area to the state's largest hospital network, which will own and operate the clinics.

Advocate Health Care, headquartered in Downers Grove, Ill., will supervise and staff each retail clinic with its own nurse practitioners, giving the system a key access point and referral source for its 12 hospitals and 250 sites of care, according to a press release.

"With Walgreens" unmatched footprint coupled with our leading clinical expertise and commitment to delivering high-quality, affordable health care, more patients will have access to the best care when and where they need it," says Lee Sacks, M.D., Advocate's chief medical officer and executive vice president.

Walgreens currently operates pharmacies on the campuses of three Advocate hospitals, with plans to open three more. The drugstore is placing a strategic emphasis on care coordination and ensuring a continuum of care for its customers, with plans to roll out a new electronic health record at its Walgreens-managed clinic locations.

"Advocate shares our commitment to delivering extraordinary, personalized patient care, and is a nationally recognized health system that, like Walgreens, has been serving Chicagoland communities for more than 100 years," says Pat Carroll, M.D., chief medical officer for Walgreens Healthcare Clinics.

The Illinois health system will take control of the new clinics, branded as "Advocate Clinic at Walgreens," starting in May. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Walgreens, the nation's largest drugstore chain, has nearly 8,200 locations, with a presence in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. About 400 have clinics.

The sale to Advocate is part of a recent trend by Walgreens to outsource the operation of its clinics. In August, Seattle-based Providence Health & Services announced plans to open, own and operate up to 25 new Walgreens clinics in Oregon and Washington state.