Walgreens announced that it expanded its telehealth offering, which the company launched in partnership with MDLive last year, to 20 more states. The telehealth service is now offered in 25 states total -- after launching with two, it added another three in June. The company also announced the launch of a new app, called Walgreens Connect, in partnership with Qualcomm Life that allows Walgreens customers to track their health and earn in-store rewards.
Adam Pellegrini, Walgreens divisional vice president of digital health, discussed these announcements as well as Walgreens' digital health strategy at the HIMSS Connected Health Conference in National Harbor.
"We embrace innovation, we embrace reimagining that digital, omnichannel, frictionless experience," Pellegrini said. "This is our approach. It’s really not about trying to find next cool thing, or how complex can we make something -- we’ve heard of a lot of technologies out there and frankly, I’ve been doing digital health for many, many years and always thought, 'Wow if we put more features and make it more complex, gosh more people will start using it.' All of us have seen that that’s just not true. What Walgreens has really discovered is it’s these three things: Make it simple, make it rewarding, and make it effective."
Pellegrini said that since first announcing the telehealth offering, his team has changed the way users interact with it. While initially, users had to install and launch the MDLive app separately to continue their session, he learned that a multi-app strategy was not effective in keeping Walgreens customers engaged.
"In our first iteration of this, you had to click this, and you had to launch the app store, you had to download this other app — we saw such abandonment rate because consumers don’t want to click- click-click, they want it simple," he said. "They want it frictionless... What they care about is, 'I can just do this, and it just works'."
Walgreens Connect, which also launched this week, allows Walgreens Balance Rewards members who own a Well at Walgreens-branded blood glucose meter or blood pressure wrist monitor to sync data and earn points. Users can earn up to 20 points per day for measurements on each device. They can also use third party devices from Walgreens' many partners, and from partners of partners like devices in Qualcomm Life's 2net ecosystem, to track their health -- the company said its main app now has more than 500,000 active connected devices feeding it data.
"What’s more important is, you download the app, the consumer connects the device, and it’s one touch connect, a phrase that my colleague here coined," Pellegrini said. "One touch connect -- you touch the button on the thing and it just pairs. The consumer doesn’t even have to think about it. And then they earn points for it. We make it simple, we make it rewarding, and we make it something, truly something, people want to use."
In June, Walgreens released data from a series of studies the company conducted in 2014, showing that their rewards program increased adherence to hypertension and diabetes medications. One study analyzed 4,943 Walgreens Balance Rewards healthy choice members who logged activity, body weight, and blood pressure within six months of enrollment, but also filled at least one antihypertensive medication in 2014. The study found that participants who tracked blood pressure levels were 2.6 percent more adherent to their medication than those who did not. And participants’ adherence was 2.4 percent higher if they logged more than one mile per day than if they logged less.