HLTH23: Walgreens to roll out direct-to-consumer virtual health services in 9 states

LAS VEGAS—Pharmacy retail giant Walgreens plans to roll out virtual healthcare services later this month for common health needs like urgent care, birth control and seasonal allergies.

"Our goal is to be the most convenient health and wellness destination whether you’re physically in our stores or virtually in our stores," Tracey D. Brown, executive vice president and chief commercial officer at Walgreens said while speaking at the HLTH conference.

Walgreens virtual healthcare will offer patients a range of services, including on-demand virtual consultations with healthcare providers for common health needs and seamless prescription services.

The offering will be available initially in nine states in late October 2023, with plans to expand over time. Consumers in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas will be able to access the service at Walgreens.com beginning in late October 2023. Walgreens note that these nine states encompass nearly half of the U.S. population and nearly half of Walgreens pharmacy customers. 
At launch, the on-demand telehealth service will offer treatment for some of the most common health needs, including seasonal allergies, medication refill for high blood pressure and urgent care, women’s health, ranging from UTI and birth control to emergency contraception, along with men’s health, such as erectile dysfunction and hair loss and also skin health.

Patients will have access to virtual consultations with a doctor or nurse practitioner via chat, as well as video visits with a medical provider for select conditions. After patients connect with a provider via chat or video, Walgreens enables them to get their prescriptions filled at store pharmacies or with Walgreens same-day prescription delivery.

Most chat visits through Walgreens' virtual healthcare service will be priced at $33 out-of-pocket, with pricing for video visits varying from $36 to $75, according to the company.

Walgreens is not accepting insurance for virtual care visits but the pharmacy retail giant plans to accept insurance in the future.

There is increased competition among retailers to expand their reach into healthcare and offer more primary care services.

Amazon unveiled Amazon Clinic in November 2022 as a virtual medical clinic to provide care for 35 common health concerns like urinary tract infection, pink eye, and acid reflux. Launched initially as a message-based virtual consultation service, Amazon Clinic has since expanded to all 50 states, including nationwide telehealth services to offer access to clinicians through its website and mobile app.

Many startups including Ro, Hims & Hers and Thirty Madison offer similar virtual care services to provide birth control and treat conditions like hair loss, skin conditions and sexual health. As Amazon and Walgreens broaden their footprint in direct-to-consumer healthcare services, it will likely put pressure on other digital health players.