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Walgreens integrates rewards with Apple Pay

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Drug chain also plans to migrate Healthcare Clinics to new EHR platform

Apple Pay at Walgreens in New York's Time Square

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens has become the first merchant to integrate its customer rewards program with the Apple Pay mobile payment platform.

Also on Thursday, Walgreens announced plans to migrate its Healthcare Clinic walk-in medical clinics to the Epic electronic health record (EHR) platform, called EpicCare.

The drug chain said members of its Balance Rewards loyalty program can now seamlessly use their account through Apple Pay without having to separately scan a Balance Rewards card or barcode.

To enable the capability, Balance Rewards members add their digital card to the Wallet app in iOS 9 and use it at checkout with Apple Pay. Then when making a purchase, they hold their iPhone near the contactless reader with a finger on Touch ID, and the rewards information will be sent. Those using Apple Watch to make a purchase double-click the side button, choose their Balance Rewards card and hold the face of Apple Watch up to the reader.

“We’re excited to be the first to provide our customers with increased ease of access to their Balance Rewards account and information when using Apple Pay,” Sona Chawla, president of digital and chief marketing officer at Walgreens, said in a statement. “This offering supports our commitment to removing friction and enabling a simple and convenient customer experience.”

Walgreens has more than 85 million active Balance Rewards members. In stores, Apple Pay works with the iPhone 6 and higher as well as the Apple Watch.

Walgreens and Duane Reade were among the initial retailers to support Apple Pay when it was unveiled over a year ago with the debut of the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch. Apple Pay has been seen as a solution for merchant concerns about the security of purchase transactions in the wake of data breaches at large retailers. Instead of storing credit or debit card numbers, Apple Pay uses a unique, one-time number to authorize each transaction.

Healthcare Clinic area_Walgreens

The EpicCare EHR platform will enable Healthcare Clinics to share patient information with more health providers.

Meanwhile, Walgreens said the transition of its Healthcare Clinics from a proprietary EHR platform to EpicCare will enhance care coordination among providers and support the long-term growth of its clinic business. Plan call for the switch to EpicCare to start early next year.

“This state-of-the-industry EHR will enable more seamless communication with health systems and local providers and gives us enhanced capabilities to deliver better health outcomes through greater care coordination and interoperability,” according Patrick Carroll, chief medical officer for Healthcare Clinics. “As our clinics play an increasingly important role in health care, supporting the health care system, provider practices and patients’ medical homes, care coordination can be critical. This will benefit our patients, clinic providers and partners and serves as an instrumental part of our strategic growth plan.”

Through EpicCare, Healthcare Clinics platform will have access to Epic’s Care Everywhere EHR-based interoperability network and be able to connect with other health care organizations to securely share a patient’s medication list, assisting with medication reconciliation and review during Healthcare Clinic visits.

“With our shared focus on interoperability, Walgreens will also become a part of the nation’s largest network of care organizations securely sharing patient information with hospitals, laboratories, private practices, federal agencies, local care providers and state HIEs [health information exchanges],” noted Epic president Carl Dvorak.

Overall, Walgreens operates more than 400 Healthcare Clinics nationwide.

“As we continue to invest in our retail clinic business,” added Jeff Koziel, group vice president for Walgreens Healthcare Clinics, “it’s critical to have these best-in-class intelligence tools that support our commitment to patient care and can help position Healthcare Clinics as a strategic partner of choice within the communities we serve.”


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