Smartphones driving mobile health revolution

“A drug store in the palm of your hand.” That’s what Walgreens calls the fast-growing suite of health and pharmacy services now available from many retail pharmacies to Americans with smartphones.

Technology vendors, pharmacies and other health providers are keeping pace with a slew of interactive health offerings.  For proof, one need look no further than the nation’s biggest drug store retailers.

CVS Caremark, for instance, saw a huge uptick in activity among consumers linking to its pharmacy services via smartphones. The number of “customers accessing via mobile devices and tablets has more than doubled since the beginning of the year,” said Rob Price, SVP and chief marketing officer for CVS/pharmacy.

Responding to its customers’ demand for mobile access and convenience, CVS has added new features to its mobile Web platform and a suite of apps that already included such features as prescription bar code scanning for smartphone users to make refills easier. Among the new applications: an immunization scheduling tool that allows customers to set up a flu shot appointment at a nearby CVS pharmacy from anywhere, see when prescriptions are ready for pickup, access a Health Information Center and manage their ExtraCare savings and rewards. The enhanced CVS mobile apps also include a new Pill Identifier tool, giving patients a way to check for drug interactions and identify pills by shape, color and imprint.

The pioneer in scan-driven mobile-based refills is Walgreens, which launched its Refill by Scan mobile app in November 2010 and saw a nearly fivefold increase in mobile applications in 2011. Refill by Scan now accounts for more than 40% of all online refills, according to the company, and generates more transactions than any other mobile app feature for Walgreens.

“As we put new smartphone enhancements in the hands of Walgreens customers nationwide, the response has been phenomenal,” Walgreens president and CEO Greg Wasson noted. Customers, he said, quickly embraced new mobile apps like scan-driven refills, with nearly 3 million downloads in its inaugural year.

“We’ve extended the convenience of Walgreens pharmacy through a number of intuitive, easy-to-use tools that can be very effective in helping patients better manage and improve their overall health,” said Sona Chawla, Walgreens president of e-commerce.

Also scoring with tech-savvy consumers in 2012 was Rite Aid, which last year gave users of Android and iPhone devices easier access to its suite of Web-based and mobile services with a more powerful and simpler-to-use mobile app for text messaging, prescription alerts and refill reminders, among other services. “We’ve seen traffic to our mobile-optimized website grow steadily as proof positive that our customers’ communication preferences are evolving,” said John Learish, SVP marketing.

The ability of pharmacy retailers to rapidly adapt is a positive development for a health system scrambling to deliver care.

“With the rapid growth of mobile health, usability of mobile applications is critical, as these applications present the opportunity to improve clinical and financial performance and to address the growing problem of chronic care,” HIMSS reported recently.


- 1:25 PM
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