It might not seem like an all-out war just yet, but Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. has new ammunition to use in the battle among big retailers to win over more digital healthcare customers.
A year ago, Walgreens rolled out its latest online initiative: a digital marketplace of healthcare providers. With the newly developed marketplace, consumers can use desktop and mobile versions of Walgreens.com and the Walgreens mobile app to access Find Care.
The marketplace launched with 17 healthcare systems, hospitals, laboratory testing companies and telehealth services providers are participating in Find Care. Health systems and hospitals include: Advocate Health Care, Chicago; Baptist Health, Jacksonville, Florida; Community Health Network, Indianapolis; Florida Hospital, Tampa; NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in collaboration with Weill Cornell Medicine and Columbia University Irving Medical Center, New York; Piedmont Healthcare, Atlanta; Providence St. Joseph Health, including Providence Express Care in Portland, Oregon; Swedish Express Care in Seattle; SSM Health, St. Louis; and The University of Miami Health System, Miami.
Find Care has been expanded to include about 20 more health systems and digital healthcare providers such as: Advent Health, Aspen Dental, DermatologistOnCall, Dexcom, Heal, Houston Methodist, Kadlec, LabCorp., MD Live, MedExpress Urgent Care, Norton Healthcare, Partners in Primary Care, Propeller Health, and Vanderbilt Health. Walgreens also added its own healthcare clinics and hearing and optical centers.
With Find Care, users can navigate and search for local and digital healthcare services, with offerings in certain markets as varied as neighborhood healthcare clinics, urgent care, telehealth, lab testing, physician second opinions and even physician house calls and optical and hearing services in select markets, Walgreens says. With Find Care, consumers can go online, find providers at a participating health system, schedule and pay for a digital doctor visit or schedule an eye exam at a Walgreens store. Fees range from $55 for the eye exam to $59 for a telehealth session for non-emergency (walk-in clinic) conditions and $89 for an online visit with a behavioral therapist. What services are covered by health insurance are determined by each user’s health plan, Walgreens says.
Walgreens has yet to divulge much detailed information about the success—or failure—of Find Care, such as how many digital healthcare customers are using the platform and how often. “We are focused and far along with the platform,” says Walgreens vice president and director of healthcare innovation Giovanni Monti.
One new area of development for the Find Care platform is adding on new vendors and services to monitor chronic disease management and in particular Type 2 diabetes. By 2030, the older population is expected to grow from 35 million consumers to 74 million consumers. People age 65 and older will account for 25% of the U.S. population by 2060, according to research from KPMG LLC .The number of people with three or more chronic conditions will rise from 30.8 million to 83.4 million by 2030.
Consumers with five or more chronic conditions make up 12% of adult population but account for 41% of total healthcare spending, KPMG says. Type 2 diabetes, a chronic condition that affects the way the body processes blood sugar, is projected to cost the U.S. healthcare system an estimated $622.0 billion annually as soon as 2030, more than 50% than the $245.0 billion spent on treating Type 2 diabetes this year, KPMG says.
Walgreens is adding more tools to Find Care to help educate and monitor chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a common lung disease. A new section on Find Care lets users find more information on diabetes management and continuous glucose monitoring and COPD and purchase a monitoring device online or in a store. “By integrating connected care devices, digital therapeutics and the pharmacy experience, we’ll help individuals better manage their chronic conditions while also lowering the overall cost of care,” Monti says.
Find Care is the latest move by Walgreens to use its mobile and healthcare ecommerce business to launch more digital health services. The Walgreens mobile app has more than 5 million active users each month and the app has been downloaded more than 57 million times, Walgreens says.
But at the same time Walgreens is building up its digital healthcare platform, CVS Health and Amazon.com also are building up their own assets.
Over the next two years CVS Health will spend more than $2 billion on new technology, mainly on digital healthcare, and Walgreens is spending about $1 billion.
Amazon is quietly figuring out how to integrate its $753 million acquisition of digital pharmacy PillPack.com and its network of 475 Whole Food stores into a broader digital healthcare and ecommerce strategy.
But how successfully each chain or Amazon may ultimately be in gaining more digital healthcare customers is how well they are at launching the right set of services and products that customers easiest and most satisfying to use.
Each retailer also will take a different approach, says Ashraf Shehata, a partner in the Global Healthcare Center of Excellence at KPMG US. “They [the chains and Amazon] are all coming at it from what they do differently and do well,” he says. “CVS has a payer (Aetna), CVS and Walgreens have 20,000 drugstores between them and Amazon as PillPack and Amazon Prime—there’s room to maneuver and see what sticks with customers.”