Walgreens Boots Alliance is launching a new digital marketplace that will connect the pharmacy chain’s mobile visitors to its drugstores as well as local doctors and clinics across the U.S.
The move comes as Walgreens, CVS Health, Walmart and other brick-and-mortar retailers with health services face the possibility online retailer Amazon will expand deeper into the healthcare business. Amazon grabbed headlines last month with its acquisition of the small retail pharmacy PillPack.
But Walgreens is stressing ties to local healthcare providers, which Amazon doesn’t yet have .
Walgreens “Find Care Now” platform lists cash prices for healthcare services for everything from a local clinic or optometrist to the cost of a telehealth vendor’s virtual doctor consultation. For now, there are 16 local health systems and national healthcare providers participating in Find Care Now but Walgreens said they expect more to join the marketplace.
“Find Care Now is part of a series of innovations to offer a true omnichannel experience for Walgreens customers, as we work with others in the health care community to improve access to affordable health care services in the communities we serve,” Walgreens president of operations, Richard Ashworth said.
The national network of medical care providers participating in the Find Care Now marketplace offer outpatient services the companies involved say will be “sensible alternatives to costly emergency room visits.” These services include access to nurse practitioners or physicians located at adjacent urgent care centers and more specialized services such as behavioral health therapists, optometrists and lab services in certain markets.
Find Care Now’s list of participating healthcare providers includes Advocate Health Care, the largest healthcare system in the Chicago area; Baptist Health in Jacksonville, Fla.; NewYork-Presbyterian in collaboration with Weill Cornell Medicine; Providence Health and Services in Portland and Seattle; and Community Health Network in Indianapolis as well as UnitedHealth Group’s MedExpress urgent care centers. Telehealth vendors MDLive and DermatologistOnCall are also part of the marketplace.
Participating providers could see a boost in business given the Walgreens mobile app has 5 million active users each month.
“This is all about understanding consumer preferences and making care more convenient, more seamless and more accessible in a busy world,” Advocate Aurora Health chief marketing officer Kelly Jo Golson said. Advocate Aurora is the parent of the Advocate clinics involved in the Walgreens marketplace. “Our shared commitment to putting consumers first advances our core purpose: to help people live well,” Golson said.
Under pressure from some investors and analysts to launch new digital health efforts and a U.S. strategy, Walgreens is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in new systems and even more on rebranding more than 2,000 Rite Aid stores as Walgreens.
“By combining digital assets with our strong local footprint, Walgreens offers a unique and convenient model for patients to find care built around their needs,” said Walgreens vice president and director of healthcare innovation Giovanni Monti. “We have a growing number of provider healthcare collaborations and a product development roadmap that will soon add more valuable features to Find Care Now.”