Walgreens and NewYork-Presbyterian Collaborate to Deliver In-Store Telehealth

Retail pharmacies are increasingly looking stay competitive by offering healthcare services like consultation via telehealth.

(Photo courtesy Walgreens and NewYork-Presbyterian press release)

In a rapidly-changing retail pharmacy market, collaborations, mergers, and novel services are becoming more common. In addition to adding in-person clinics to pharmacy locations, more are beginning to leverage telehealth as a means of expanding their healthcare offerings.

Walgreens continued the growing trend by announcing today that they have partnered with the renowned NewYork-Presbyterian health system to deliver telehealth consultations to patients in their stores. One location is up and running with more planned for 2018.

The kiosks will allow remote examination, diagnosis and treatment of non-life-threatening illnesses through NYP OnDemand, a collaboration with Weill Cornell Medicine and Columbia University doctors. Patients will consult with licensed physicians via high-definition video stream, and physicians will be able to write prescriptions based, which can be transferred automatically to a patient’s preferred pharmacy.

“We are pleased that NewYork-Presbyterian will be the first local healthcare provider to collaborate with us on our evolving telehealth and digital strategy,” Greg Orr, divisional vice president of digital health for Walgreens, said in a statement. “We believe that telemedicine can play a critical role in connecting patients with providers.”

In addition to a screen and camera for videoconferencing, the kiosks will include medical devices that can be used to check patient vitals. These include a forehead thermometer, a blood pressure cuff, a pulse oximeter, and a dermascope.

The first kiosk is available between 8pm and 9pm on weekdays at a Duane Reade store in Manhattan, with shorter hours on weekends. Pediatric emergency consultations will also be available in limited hours on weekday evenings. Duane Reade, which was absorbed by Walgreens Boots Alliance in 2010, has 250 locations concentrated in the New York City metropolitan area.

“This technology gives us another way to bring Columbia physicians to the neighborhoods where our patients live and work,” Lee Goldman, MD, said in the statement. Goldman is chief executive of Columbia University Medical Center. “Improving access to doctors is a fundamental way to improve our patients’ health and well-being.”

In-store telehealth is one aspect of the retail pharmacy industry’s evolution. The chains have to keep up with one another while also considering the looming-but-uncertain threat of Amazon’s entry the field. CVS Health made major waves last week with its pending purchase of insurance giant Aetna, while respected insurer/provider Kaiser Permanente has begun placing branded clinics alongside CVS pharmacies in Target stores. It’s rumored that Walmart, itself one of the 5 largest retail pharmacies in the US, is also weighing the purchase of a health insurance company.