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Walgreens, MDLIVE Announce Expansion of Telehealth Platform

Walgreens, MDLIVE Announce Expansion of Telehealth Platform | Healthcare and Technology news |

Walgreens, the Deerfield, Ill.-based national pharmacy chain, and MDLIVE, the Sunrise, Fla.-based telehealth vendor, have announced expansion of its joint telehealth platform to include users in three new states.

Last December, the companies announced a partnership, launching a direct-to-consumer telehealth mobile health (mHealth) app that gives consumers in California and Michigan 24/7 access to a doctor. Now, that platform will expand to users in Colorado, Illinois and Washington. The service is planned to be available to users in 25 states by the end of 2015.

The service is available in both iOS and Android versions of the Walgreens mobile app, and the platform enables users to consult virtually with MDLIVE board-certified physicians for a range of acute conditions. Importantly, these physicians can e-prescribe medications when appropriate. Visits with a participating MDLIVE physician are  $49. The company also announced that in addition to mobile, users can now access the platform via the Walgreens website on desktop and tablet devices, in states where the service is currently offered.

“Our society truly values anytime, anywhere convenience,” Adam Pellegrini, Walgreens divisional vice president of digital health, said in a statement. “And with a growing need for access to affordable health care services, we believe telehealth solutions can play an important role in helping to improve patient outcomes and continues our mission to provide a seamless, omni-channel digital health experience.”

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Walgreens is aiming to be a hub for digital health tracking

Walgreens is aiming to be a hub for digital health tracking | Healthcare and Technology news |

Walgreens this week made several announcements highlighting their goal of becoming a digital health hub for patients through partnerships with WebMD and Qualcomm.

As a bit of background, Walgreen’s initially made their app available back in 2012. At that time, we highlighted the availability of medication reminder functionality as well as innovative ways to get refills. Since then, Walgreens, like many other pharmacies, has sought to rebrand and expand as more than just a pharmacy/convenience store with the addition of things like on-site healthcare clinics and a rewards program for healthy behaviors.

This week, Walgreens announced plans to integrate with Qualcomm’s 2Net platform to enable data captured by personal health devices to flow into its Balance Rewards program. Basically, Walgreens customers will get rewards for meeting targets for healthy behaviors around health tracking, exercise, and more.

In addition, Walgreens also announced a partnership with WebMD to provide customers with a Digital Health Advisor. According to Walgreens:

Participants can engage in interactive programs that help with smoking cessation, weight management, nutrition, exercise and emotional health. Walgreens Pharmacy Chat health experts are also available to provide live coaching and help encourage positive lifestyle choices and healthy behaviors. Your Digital Health Advisor participants will earn Walgreens Balance Rewards points for making progress in achieving their goals.

The suite of services being built around the Walgreens app is becoming increasingly impressive and could become a potent asset as clinicians seek new resources for managing increasingly complex patients. For example, one discussion I frequently have with my patients is around smoking cessation. I often refer them to free state resources that provide counseling and other forms of support. One benefit of the EMR is that I actually know where my patients’ fill their prescriptions. If it’s Walgreens, another resource I could suggest would be the digital health advisor and its program around smoking cessation. And if the promise of longer life, happier lungs, and less chance of heart attack isn’t enough, maybe the more tangible $10 coupon will be.

I’ll certainly be looking forward to seeing how these tools ultimately take shape to see whether I’d recommend them to my patients. But when it comes to driving healthy lifestyle changes, additional tools – particularly innovative, easy to use, and practical options like what Walgreens seems to be developing – are welcome.

Keith McGuinness's curator insight, January 9, 2015 4:01 PM

Walgreens is moving in the right direction, but the cornerstone of their digital strategy is CRM.  The cornerstone of their CRM strategy should be digital therapeutics, specifically, behavior change.  10,000 steps is great, but it is not a health outcome.!

As Walgreens Cuts Costs, Store Corners May Change

As Walgreens Cuts Costs, Store Corners May Change | Healthcare and Technology news |

With $1 billion in costs to cut as part of its merger with Alliance Boots, Walgreen Co. (WAG) is preparing for potential store design changes and new retail locations to reduce expenses and boost under-performing operations.

The largest drugstore chain in the U.S. earlier this week hinted at such potential changes during its first quarter fiscal 2015 earnings call with executives saying the past strategy to “have the best corner or location in any geography” didn’t always work. In some cases, Walgreens may just have to renegotiate leases while others may mean a smaller store or a different location or perhaps a closure.

“We are doing lots of things to manage down all aspects of that overall cost structure including taking a hard look at those stores,” said Tim McLevish, Walgreens executive vice president and chief financial officer told analysts.

“It covers the spectrum,” McLevish added. “In some locations, we would benefit by a smaller format store … (than the current) size and scale what we have.”

Walgreens, which has more retail pharmacies than rivals like CVS Health (CVS) and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), operates 8,230 drugstores with a presence in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Thus, the opportunities to cut costs are large, analysts say.

Walgreens opened a new store in an old bank in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood in 2013.

Alex Gourlay, who was CEO of Alliance Boots’ health and beauty division before last year becoming president of customer experience and daily living and the president elect of Walgreen Co., said the company had “to make even better use of the asset by having the right offer in that locality for the customers who are actually based around that store.”

“These are all strategies that we are now deploying,” Gourlay told analysts on the earnings call.

Walgreens acquisition of the remaining 55% of Alliance Boots that Walgreen doesn’t already own is expected to close next week. Shareholders will vote on that purchase Monday in New York and, should they vote in favor of the deal, the transaction will close Dec. 31.  Then, the company will operate under a new holding company called Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. that will trade under a new ticker symbol “WBA” and be run by Italian billionaire Stefano Pessina, 73, who has led Alliance Boots, and becomes “acting CEO, pending” a search for a permanent replacement for Greg Wasson, 56, who is retiring.

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Walgreens Expands Doctor Access Via Telehealth To 25 States

Walgreens Expands Doctor Access Via Telehealth To 25 States | Healthcare and Technology news |

Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), working with telemedicine company MDLive, will expand round-the-clock access to physicians via digital device for customers in 25 states by the end of the year.

The announcement by the nation’s largest drugstore chain comes as the health care industry invests in a variety of ways to expand virtual doctor visits across the country. Telehealth providers are attracting major investors, expanding their doctor networks and attracting insurance coverage for their services via a variety of digital devices.

In Walgreens’ case, the pharmacy chain has moved beyond the pilot stages to a multi-state rollout that will allow customers to access board-certified physicians via the Walgreens website on desktop and tablet devices for users in California, Michigan, Illinois, Washington and Colorado. And, by the end of the year, Walgreens customers will have access to MDLive doctors in 20 more states.

It costs $49 for MDLive’s “virtual visit” or consultation with a doctor though that could be less depending on the customer’s insurance coverage. Cigna (CI) last year began to provide access to MDLive internists, family physicians and pediatricians in certain “eligible” plans though there is not Cigna coverage for virtual visits through the Walgreens relationship.

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Walgreens Closes Deal, Begins New Era In Global Pharmacy

Walgreens Closes Deal, Begins New Era In Global Pharmacy | Healthcare and Technology news |

Walgreens (WAG) closed its deal with Alliance Boots this morning, launching under a new holding company with its eyes on global expansion, a first for the retail pharmacy industry.

As part of the deal, the new Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. (WBA) begins today trading on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol “WBA.” Earlier this week, Walgreens shareholders approved acquiring the remaining 55 percent of European drugstore chain Alliance Boots that the U.S. pharmacy doesn’t already own. It completes a process  that began in 2012.

Walgreens, which began with its first corner drugstore in Chicago in 1901, now has a “retail pharmacy network spanning the United States and Europe as well as key markets in Latin America and Asia.”

Combined, Walgreens Boots Alliance has more than 12,800 stores in more than 25 countries with more than 370,000 employees. Walgreens has been the largest U.S. pharmacy chain, ahead of CVS Health (CVS). The companies also distribute products from more than 340 pharmaceutical distribution centers that the companies said serve more than 180,000 pharmacies and other health care entities.

“Becoming global gives us the ability to generate significant and sustainable benefits for local markets and all stakeholders, from consumers and patients, to pharmacists, suppliers, business partners and, of course, our employees,” said Stefano Pessina, 73, who become acting CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance following the retirement of Walgreen Co. CEO Greg Wasson, 56.

A search for Wasson’s successor is expected to begin soon now that the deal has closed.

The outgoing Wasson said the deal combines “two iconic brands” with “complementary geographic footprints” and companies that have provided health care and community pharmacy services “each dating back more than 100 years.”

Timmy C's curator insight, January 17, 2015 1:35 AM

The pharmacy market is growing and one of the biggest pharmacy company is expanding. Walgreen's pharmacy has decided to break off and create their own individual company, this means that the future of the pharmacy business will have more competition as well as continue expanding. Which is good for individuals trying to find jobs in that industry!

80 Percent Of Patients Worry For Health Data Security

80 Percent Of Patients Worry For Health Data Security | Healthcare and Technology news |

Though 2015 will begin to show the U.S. health industry as a “true market” a new report indicates consumers remain concerned about medical technology and the security of their health information and data.

A new report released today at the Forbes Healthcare Summit by PwC’s Health Research Institute shows U.S. patients concerned about the digital age, according to a survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers who were interviewed. The report comes as millions more Americans are gaining health coverage under the Affordable Care Act and the $2.8 trillion U.S. health care sector undergoes major transformation.

Nearly 70 percent of those who responded say they are concerned about health data via their smart phones and 78 percent are concerned about medical data security in general, PwC’s report, linked here, shows.

Despite these concerns, however, PwC’s report indicates consumers are ready to take more charge of their health care and so-called “do-it-yourself” healthcare working with doctors and other providers who will assist them with care in the home and other remote patient-monitoring, the survey indicates.

“Established healthcare companies and new entrants are rapidly developing cost-efficient products and services tailored directly to consumers,” said Kelly Barnes, PwC partner and US health industries leader.

Consumers are ready for medical care providers other than physicians to deliver their care, which is good news for companies like Walgreen WAG -0.67% (WAG), CVS Health (CVS), Wal-Mart (WMT) and others. PwC said 75 percent of their survey respondents were open to “extenders” like pharmacists and nurse practitioners delivering their care.

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