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MinuteClinic launches telehealth Video Visits

BY Sandra Levy

MinuteClinic, CVS Health’s retail clinic arm, is introducing a new virtual health care offering for patients with minor illnesses and injuries, skin conditions and other wellness needs. Dubbed MinuteClinic Video Visits, the telehealth offering announced Wednesday will provide patients with access to healthcare services 24 hours a day, seven days a week from their mobile device, the company said.

“We’re excited to be able to bring this innovative care option to patients,” CVS Health executive vice president and chief medical officer Troyen Brennan said. “At CVS Health, we’re committed to delivering high-quality care when and where our patients need it and at prices they can afford. Through this new telehealth offering, patients now have an additional option for seeking care that is even more convenient for them.”

MinuteClinic has been testing telehealth in recent years. During the initial phase of testing, a CVS Health study found that 95% of patients who opted to receive a telehealth visit were highly satisfied with the quality of care they received, and 95% of patients were satisfied with the convenience of using the telehealth service and the overall telehealth experience.

Working with virtual care company Teladoc and using Teladoc’s technology platform, CVS Health said patients ages 2 years old and older can receive care via a MinuteClinic Video Visit that they can initiate through the CVS Pharmacy app. Patients who fill out a health questionnaire are matched to a board-certified health care provider licensed in their state, who will review the questionnaire with the patient’s medical history, and go on to conduct a virtual visit.

“As we continue to move the capabilities of virtual care forward, this is an exciting advancement,” said Teladoc CEO Jason Gorevic. “CVS Health’s expansion of their health care model to include video visits brings even more care delivery options to patients and Teladoc is proud to work with them on this offering.”

During a MinuteClinic Video Visit, the provider will assess the patient’s condition and determine the appropriate course of treatment following evidence-based clinical care guidelines. For patients whose treatment plans require a prescription, the provider will submit the prescription to the patient’s preferred pharmacy. The provider also can recommend a patient to a local healthcare provider if they determine the patient should be seen in person or requires follow-up care or testing.

The fee for a MinuteClinic Video Visit is $59. Credit card or debit card payments are accepted and CVS Health said insurance coverage is expected in the coming months.

The service currently is available in nine states — Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, New Hampshire and Virginia — and Washington, D.C., and is expected to be available nationwide, where allowed, by the end of 2018.

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Walmart pilots automated tech to fill online orders faster

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Walmart is adding a new member to its online grocery fulfillment team — but it’s not an associate.

Walmart is set to launch a pilot, in collaboration with start-up Alert Innovation, that uses “first-of-its-kind” automated technology to help associates fill online grocery orders faster than ever before. The system, called “Alphabot,” — developed specifically for the chain — will automatically bring items from storage to associates who will consolidate the items in the order.

The technology, which will launch by the end of the year, will be tested at a Walmart supercenter in Salem, New Hampshire, coinciding with the store’s re-grand opening. A 20,000-sq.-ft. extension connected to the store will house the system, and also include a dedicated grocery pickup point with drive-thru lanes for customers.

Once Alphabot has finished picking merchandise, automated mobile carts will retrieve the items, which will be stored warehouse-style in the store’s new extended space, and deliver them to associates at one of four pick stations. Walmart personal shoppers will then pick, assemble and deliver orders to customers.

“The vast majority of grocery products we offer in-store will be fulfilled through this system, though our personal shoppers will still handpick produce and other fresh items,” stated Mark Ibbotson, executive VP of central operations, Walmart U.S., in a blog on the company’s website.

The robotic system will reduce the time associates spend walking the store aisles in search of products and fulfilling orders, Walmart said.

“With the aid of Alphabot, our associates will have more time to focus on service and selling, the two things they often tell us are the most enjoyable part of the job, while the technology handles the more mundane, repeatable tasks,” Ibbotson said. “Although this is a small pilot, we expect big things from it.”

In addition to Alphabot, other new technology will be implemented in the remodeled store, including the chain’s pick-up tower for online orders and an automated shelf-scanner that helps identify out-of-stock items, incorrect pricing and missing labels.

Alphabot is not Walmart’s first foray into robotics. The discount giant is using a shelf-scanning robot at store-level to detect out-of-stock items, incorrect prices and wrong or missing labels.

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Kroger mulls options for Turkey Hill

BY DSN STAFF

Kroger could be putting its Turkey Hill CPG food business up for sale. The Cincinnati-based company said Tuesday that it was exploring strategic alternatives for the division within Kroger Manufacturing, including a potential sale, retaining Goldman Sachs to review and evaluate options.

Turkey Hill is a producer of a line of popular fruit drinks, iced teas, milk, ice cream and frozen dairy treats based in Conestoga, Pa., that has a staff of 800 full- and part-time associates, as well as seasonal employees.

“Turkey Hill is a unique CPG food business within Kroger Manufacturing as it is a strong, nationally-known brand,” said Erin Sharp, group vice president for Kroger Manufacturing. “Turkey Hill’s successful and recognizable ice cream and beverage products have the potential for greater growth outside of our company. We want to ensure Turkey Hill has every opportunity to meet its full potential.”

Kroger currently owns 38 plants for food manufacturing, including 19 dairies for its own-brand portfolio and Turkey Hill branded products that it sells nationwide.

“I’d like to thank our skilled and dedicated associates for building a successful brand our customers love,” Sharp said. “We believe it is in the best interest of our associates, the Turkey Hill business and our shareholders to explore this course of action.”

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