Walgreens makes telemedicine deal with NewYork-Presbyterian for Duane Reade stores

The deal marks the first time Walgreens has collaborated with a local healthcare provider to deliver its telehealth and digital strategy.

The telemedicine services will rely on software and kiosks from AmericanWell.

Walgreens has embarked on a deal with NewYork-Presbyterian health system to provide non-emergency telemedicine services at drugstore retailer Duane Reade stores around New York City, starting with a branch on Wall Street with plans to roll out to other branches in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. It marks the first time Walgreens has collaborated with a local healthcare provider to deliver its telehealth and digital strategy, a company news release noted.

NewYork-Presbyterian and Walgreens are providing the telemedicine services as part of the NYP OnDemand suite of digital health services. They will be delivered through in-store-kiosks at $99 per visit. The kiosks are provided by AmericanWell, a company with which NewYork-Presbyterian has an existing partnership, said NewYork-Presbyterian Chief Transformation Officer Dr. Peter Fleischut in a phone interview.

The kiosks are equipped with connected medical devices including a thermometer that measures temperature by swiping the forehead, a blood pressure cuff, and a pulse oximeter that measures the amount of oxygen in the body. A dermascope, which allows the provider to see a high-resolution view of skin conditions, is also available through a Walgreens partnership with Iagnosis, according to the news release. The teledermatology service is referred to as DermatologistOnCall.

The service will also be provided through the Walgreens website as NYP OnDemand Urgent Care. Customers can use it to have a video chat with board-certified emergency medicine doctors.

NewYork-Presbyterian has been piloting the use of telemedicine as a way of triaging walk-in patients at emergency departments through NYP On Demand Express Care. It has been rolled out to four of the hospitals in its network to date: Weil Cornell, Columbia Presbyterian, The Allen Hospital, and Lower Manhattan Hospital. Fleischut said the service has helped it whittle down the duration of emergency room visits from an average of two hours to 30 minutes. Patients who have used the service span 18 to 98 years old, noted Fleischut.

By increasing access points to NY-Presbyterian physicians, the deal with Walgreens allows the hospital to expand access points to the hospital, extending its brand and network reach, adding more patients to its system.  Fleischut also addressed the question of how to help patients who use the service but may have a more urgent condition that can be addressed in the setting of a Duane Reade.

“We find there is more and more need for immediate access to physicians and lot of low acuity needs. That is why we provide these services. If a condition is more severe…we can provide some services virtually and refer some situations onto a specialist or an emergency department,” said Fleischut.

In addition to the in-store kiosks, Walgreens customers in the New York area using the Walgreens website can access NYP OnDemand Urgent Care to video chat with board-certified emergency medicine doctors, the news release said.

Walgreens inked a collaboration deal with MDLive two years ago to offer telemedicine services in its stores around the country.

Asked about the deal, Greg Orr, Walgreens divisional vice president of digital health said in an email that the deal expands Walgreens’s strategy to provide healthcare access for its customers in a convenient way. He noted that it complements an existing collaboration with MDLive, which focuses on general health issues and mental health services.

Telemedicine delivered through kiosks failed for one healthcare startup, HealthSpot, which went out of business  last year. RiteAid purchased its assets for just over $1 million. Still, Walgreens and NewYork-Presbyterian have the scale that HealthSpot was never able to achieve, plus they are bringing to bear different telemedicine capabilities.

“We see the kiosks as only part of a larger collaboration between Walgreens and NYP,” Orr said in an email. “Similar to our approach in retail, we believe in the power of omni-channel to connect customers with our brand both inside our stores and digitally to meet them wherever they are.  By collaborating with a well-known health brand like NYP in the New York City market we believe we can maximize convenience for our customers both inside our stores through kiosks as well as online through our digital properties.”

The deal will make Walgreens more competitive with other companies seeking to add on to their healthcare services such as CVS Health, which has entered into a deal to acquire Aetna.

Photo: NewYork-Presbyterian