Walgreen to launch virtual doctor app

Partnership with MDLive builds on the retailer's telemedicine initiatives

Walgreen on Monday announced a partnership with telemedicine company MDLive to provide virtual visits to pharmacy customers via its mobile application.

Users of the app will be able to see a board certified physician via video chat for common ailments such as upper respiratory infections, ear aches, sore throats, and rashes. Appointments will cost $49 dollars. Typically, MDLive virtual visits last around 15 minutes, and physicians may write prescriptions, when appropriate.

However, the virtual visits are not intended to replace a yearly visit to a primary-care doctor, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Think telemedicine is displacing demand for in-person visits? Think again.

The new virtual visits service will build on Walgreen's online pharmacy chat portal, which the company says averages 9,000 chats weekly between customers and pharmacists who answer basic health questions. 

Initially, the service will be available to Walgreen customers in Michigan and California, although the company said it plans to expand the service to more states in the future.

Florida-based MDLive currently has 2,000 doctors available to speak with patients, and it expects the Walgreen partnership will greatly increase its number of average daily users. CEO Randy Parker says the company expects as many as two million additional visitors a day as the result of a partnership.

In a joint announcement with Walgreen, Parker said, "we are thrilled to work with Walgree[n] to offer consumers more choice for convenient, quality and, cost-effective care."

Walgreen CMO Harry Leider framed the retailer's latest push into telemedicine as a sign of things to come. "I think this will become a normal part of health care in three to five years," he said (Hirst, Chicago Tribune, 12/8; Ampel, South Florida Business Journal, 12/8; Jaspen, Forbes, 12/8). 

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