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At CES, Walgreens’ medical chief cites advances in multichannel technology to boost access to care

LAS VEGAS — Walgreens’ increasing use of mobile technology platforms is transforming the way the company reaches patients and is expanding its ability to deliver health services via smart phones and other devices, a Walgreens official asserted Friday.

Speaking at the opening of the Consumer Electronics Show’s Digital Health Summit this morning, Walgreens chief medical officer Cheryl Pegus laid out the ways the health services and retail pharmacy giant is leveraging technology to make personal health management easier for patients.

Pegus, who moderated the opening panel discussion on the future of technology-driven healthcare delivery, discussed the evolution of digital health at Walgreens. Held in conjunction with the nation’s largest electronics trade show, the Digital Health Summit spotlights the growing market of consumer-based health-and-wellness innovations and was attended by decision-makers from both the healthcare and technology sectors.

Setting the forward-looking tone of the event, Pegus told CES attendees that Walgreens is applying a whole current suite of solutions that is improving access, outcomes and cost-effective care for both acute and chronic conditions. “Access to the right care at the right time is enabled for our consumers and patients by integrating mobile technology into the services we offer patients to help them stay well,” she said.

Pegus discussed how Walgreens has embraced the use of mobile technology platforms as a means of improving delivery of care to patients. The company now offers mobile applications for iPhone, Android and Blackberry devices, featuring text alerts for more than 1 million subscribers. One recent breakthrough is a function that allows patients to simply scan the barcode of their prescriptions to send in refills. Patients also can use their mobile devices to access Walgreens.com for pharmacy and retail purchasing, as well as health risk assessments and prescription-related information, Pegus told attendees.

Walgreens’ chief medical officer also provided a closer look at how Walgreens and its more than 350 in-store Take Care Clinics are utilizing technology to deliver integrated, quality care and simplify and improve the patient experience. One example: Patients at any of the in-store clinics can sign in using electronic kiosks, which help them understand their estimated wait time and avoid manually filling out paperwork. Data inputted into the kiosks prompts the creation of an electronic medical record, allowing providers across the country to more quickly and comprehensively understand a patient’s history.

Walgreens pharmacists and Take Care Clinic providers also use an e-communication program to coordinate care with a patient’s pharmacy plan, Pegus said. Armed with that digital communications capability, pharmacists and clinicians quickly can generate reports to share with a patient’s primary care provider, leading to a more coordinated level of care, Pegus noted.

Digital technology and electronic communications also are arming the chain with new tools for managing chronic conditions, Pegus asserted. Through electronic prescribing, prescriptions are routed directly to a patient’s pharmacy, improving patient safety by allowing for a real-time cross check for any drug interactions, she told her audience. In addition, Walgreens’ RxAdvisor tool provides for more productive pharmacist consultations with patients about their medication regimens online or face-to-face. Another Walgreens offering, MedMonitor Complete, provides prescription and care management with face-to-face and telephonic support utilizing a nationwide network of more than 10,000 pharmacies.

“Leveraging our unmatched national footprint and 70,000 affiliated healthcare providers to provide access to care and help address the challenge of chronic care management are two key areas of strategic focus for Walgreens,” Pegus said. “By using technology to improve the patient experience and coordination of care, we can continue to improve measurable outcomes, adherence and quality, while also providing cost-effective care.”

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