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Chains are ramping up digital health offerings

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Drug stores have been forging partnerships with digital health care and telehealth providers over the last few years to enable a shift from sick care to self-care, empowering shoppers to take ownership of their health and wellness. CVS and Walgreens expanded their digital platforms to offer remote medical services since shoppers are hesitant to see a physician in person. Shoppers Drug Mart, a drug banner owned by Loblaw in Canada, partnered with AbilitiCBT to offer virtual mental health consultations.

Amir Singh

But retailers outside the drug channel are also entering the health care space. Walmart and Dollar General are making digital health more accessible by providing cost-effective services. Sam’s Club’s partnered with 98point6 on a quarterly subscription model that offers visits for just $1, with unlimited use and 24/7 access to U.S. board-certified doctors.

Health efforts among retailers

Developing strong health and wellness ecosystems is the top priority among retailers that are leveraging loyalty programs and beefing up their health apps with more health care benefits to attract subscribers.

CVS has accelerated its digital health investments to build a comprehensive health care ecosystem, which includes the launch of CVS HealthHubs. The HealthHub location might look like a normal CVS storefront, but, inside, customers will find a comprehensive range of health care services, ranging from nutrition counseling and workout classes to durable medical equipment for those suffering from certain chronic conditions. The aim is to help people manage their smaller daily health decisions in a nonintrusive way. CVS plans to open 1,500 HealthHubs by the end of 2021 as part of its enterprise growth strategy.

Walgreens is rapidly developing a digital health care network with its revamped myWalgreens app. The mobile app gives users access to digital health services, as well as health and wellness management tools to monitor chronic conditions in partnership with Onduo, a digital platform that helps personalize health care management.

Both CVS and Walgreens offer a slew of credible and timely health and wellness tutorials, articles and resources to manage diseases and chronic conditions on their digital touchpoints.

Supermarkets are also vying to develop their digital health care services. Kroger is providing free virtual consultations with dietitians to keep shoppers healthy at home. Hy-Vee’s HSTV features several shows that teach cooking techniques and plating skills and offer workouts for all ages.

Smart solutions and services

Innovative digital health care personalization opportunities are emerging via smart health care solutions and membership-based services.

Higi, a biometric monitoring smart station system, allows patient health data interaction with pharmacy benefit managers and providers. Consumers can create a free Higi account and monitor their health biometrics at a Higi station located at over 10,000 retail pharmacies and other locations across the U.S. Higi allows biometric screening for obesity, diabetes risk factors, high blood pressure, and hypertension and stroke risk. Each Higi smart health station has a screen that also provides advertising space where brands can place personalized ads. The platform gained more prominence during the pandemic when many physicians asked patients to share their biometric readings, such as blood pressure and heart rate, via Higi’s platform ahead of their virtual consultation.

Membership-based digital health care services are enabling proactive personalized care. MDVIP is the largest concierge health provider that offers membership fee-based access to an MDVIP-affiliated physician for personalized care and support. The concierge health platform also runs programs for members, empowering them with frequent newsletters and resources to manage chronic health conditions and their overall well-being.

The following key learnings can help brands find growth in the emerging digital retail health care space:

  • Diversify your marketing communication and trade promotion plans to increase brand awareness and engagement across emerging health and wellness ecosystems.
  • Leverage advanced analytics to personalize your promotional offers for higher ROI.
  • Help shoppers reach their health and wellness goals by co-creating digital resources and tutorials with your retail customers.

Amar Singh is a senior director at Kantar. He can be contacted at amar.singh1@kantar.com.


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