Walgreens Turns Wellness Coach With Help From WebMD

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It isn’t quite the Apple app with the Mayo Clinic, or even Nike Fit, but the Walgreens pharmacy chain and digital health hub WebMD are partnering in a move aimed at helping each brand compete more effectively in the era of intense digitization of healthcare and medical and fitness advice and monitoring.

The agreement will bring WebMD’s virtual wellness-coaching programs to America’s largest drugstore chain and help incentivize its Balance Rewards members to practice healthy behaviors using the WebMD platform by giving them rewards points by participating in programs and tracking progress toward goals. This is a first for Walgreens loyalty program, which traditionally rewarded points based on what customers purchase, not do.

The deal also follows the anti-tobacco move by CVS, America’s #2 drugstore chain, which went into effect last month and followed a lot of research and soul-searching, at a time when all pharmacies are looking to increase their value to customers.[more]

In addition to virtual coaching, the Walgreens partnership involves content-sharing that leverages WebMD’s deep archive of health and wellness articles and advice. Walgreens loyalty-program members will have access to specialized WebMD content designed to help them quit smoking, manage their weight and eat healthy. The chain will integrate WebMD advice on topics ranging from allergies to heart health in its stores and on its website and apps.

The goal is to spur behavior change on the part of Walgreens customers to become proactively involved in their healthcare, while WebMD gets to monetize and promote its content to Walgreens shoppers. “Walgreens rewards points become the incentive gauge to have [consumers] use [the app] more,” WebMD CEO David Schlanger told the Chicago Tribune. “They now have this financial incentive to engage in these healthy behaviors.”

WebMD logs 64 million unique visitors each month, a good number of whom are simply trying to diagnose symptoms. But the site and its own branded app also provide online health coaching to people under contracts with employers and insurance plans.

Users will be able to upload date from various devices that track health markets such as steps taken, or glucose levels, according to the Tribune. The integration meets customers’ desires to be more digitally connected, Walgreens President Alex Gourlay told the newspaper. “We want our stores to remain popular, but we want to give customers access on their own terms” and “give them the best advice and the best information… This is right in the sweet spot of healthy and happy.”

Gourlay said the idea is that the combination of the two “trusted brands” will drive more loyalty members at Walgreens stores and grow WebMD’s presence. But while WebMD will make available on its website Walgreens online prescription refills and health-care clinic appointment scheduling, the Tribune said that Walgreen won’t be sharing actual prescription information with WebMD.

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