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Walgreens prescribes telehealth expansion to additional platforms, geographies

Walgreens is expanding a telehealth pilot that launched late last year on smartphones, bringing it to additional locations as well as adding desktop and tablet functionality.

The drugstore chain is leveraging its deep experience in mobile marketing to innovate in the quickly growing telehealth space by providing 24/7 access to MDLive’s virtual doctor service via the Walgreens’ mobile app and now its desktop and tablet offerings. The initial launch markets of California and Michigan now add Colorado, Illinois and Washington, with the service expected to be live in 25 states by the end of the year.

“We have found that consumers want the experience on desktop in addition to mobile, given the prevalence of laptops with built-in cameras,” said Jim Cohn, media relations at Walgreens, Deerfield, IL.

Virtual doctor visits
Walgreens and MDLive first launched the platform last December through the Walgreens iOS and Android apps in California and Michigan.

Users can access the platform to consult virtually with MDLive board-certified physicians for a range of acute conditions, with a visit costing $49. The physicians can e-prescribe medications when appropriate.

The Walgreen’s app’s offerings also include digital prescription refills, medicine reminders and pharmacy chat tools.

With a growing need for access to affordable health care services, Walgreens believes telehealth solutions can play an important role in helping to improve patient outcomes and continuing the brand’s mission to provide a seamless, omnichannel digital health experience.

Healthcare solutions
The mhealth and telehealth markets are growing quickly as mobile adoption gains and consumers looking for convenient, cost-effective healthcare solutions.

A recent report from Research and Markets stated that the global market for telemedicine technologies, including hardware, software and services, totaled $17.8 billion in 2014. The market is anticipated to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 18.4 percent from 2014 to 2020

Telemedicine applications are surging due to the prevalence of chronic diseases, growing smartphone adoption, the need for quality services and a growing elderly population across countries, according to the report.

The factors hindering growth include reimbursement challenges, uneven telecom networks in remote areas and high operating costs.

Mobile services
Walgreen’s telehealth strategy underscores how the growth in mobile is enabling marketers such as Walgreens to extend the reach of their consumer offerings into new areas.

Walgreens has also partnered with WebMD to drive smartphone use for prescription refills and wellness-driven rewards.

The telehealth program is just the latest example of the important role that mobile plays for Walgreens.

This week, the chain also announced a collaboration with social competition app Challenged, an Apple Watch app with Pill and Refill Reminder features and the integration of its loyalty platform with Apple Pay (see story).

“Many consumers today value the anytime, anywhere convenience that smartphones provide, and we’re certainly seeing growth trends related to shopping, managing health and other activities people are doing on smartphones today,” Mr. Cohn said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York