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Walgreens and MDLIVE launch new telehealth service

by Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | December 11, 2014
Walgreens and telemedicine company, MDLIVE, announced on Monday a new service that will enable patients to consult with physicians around-the-clock through its mobile application. It's currently available in California and Michigan and their goal is to expand it to additional states.

"We decided to partner with MDLIVE to provide yet another way to deliver customers greater convenience and further access to healthcare," a Walgreens spokesperson wrote to DOTmed News.

It will allow patients to consult MDLIVE physicians about a variety of acute conditions including colds, upper respiratory tract infections, rashes and Pinkeye. However, it will not be used to evaluate chest pains, potential heart attacks and other more serious conditions.
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MDLIVE's cloud-based Virtual Medical Office software platform is what connects the patients, health care professionals and plan administrators. It's also HIPAA and PHI-compliant so payors and physicians can collect and share patients' medical information.

This is not the first time Walgreens has leveraged telemedicine - last year they launched their Pharmacy Chat feature that allows patients to get in touch with their pharmacy staff 24/7. They can ask the staff general health and medications questions.

Other retail pharmacy chains are also going in the same direction. At the beginning of the year, CVS started a pilot program in 28 stores in California for their MinuteClinics, which offer telehealth visits inside of the store. Last month, Rite Aid partnered with the telemedicine provider, HealthSpot.

Walgreens expects their customers to respond "quite well" to this new offering. "We've already seen a lot of traction through mobile and features like text alerts, Refill by Scan and others," the spokesperson wrote. "So while it would be premature to provide a number, we are optimistic there will be strong adoption."

However, they do admit that telemedicine is not for everything, and that in-person consultations in a physician's office still have an important role.

Reid Blackwelder, board chair of the American Academy of Family Physicians, is a big supporter of telehealth but he has concerns about some aspects of it.

"We are very concerned with any proposals that create the potential for medical care to be provided in the absence of an established patient-physician relationship, and by a provider who is not the patient's personal physician," he wrote in an email response. He added that it has the potential to add to the already fragmented medical system and create risks for the patient.

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