FI_WalgreensWalgreens this week made several announcements highlighting their goal of becoming a digital health hub for patients through partnerships with WebMD and Qualcomm.

As a bit of background, Walgreen’s initially made their app available back in 2012. At that time, we highlighted the availability of medication reminder functionality as well as innovative ways to get refills. Since then, Walgreens, like many other pharmacies, has sought to rebrand and expand as more than just a pharmacy/convenience store with the addition of things like on-site healthcare clinics and a rewards program for healthy behaviors.

This week, Walgreens announced plans to integrate with Qualcomm’s 2Net platform to enable data captured by personal health devices to flow into its Balance Rewards program. Basically, Walgreens customers will get rewards for meeting targets for healthy behaviors around health tracking, exercise, and more.

In addition, Walgreens also announced a partnership with WebMD to provide customers with a Digital Health Advisor. According to Walgreens:

Participants can engage in interactive programs that help with smoking cessation, weight management, nutrition, exercise and emotional health. Walgreens Pharmacy Chat health experts are also available to provide live coaching and help encourage positive lifestyle choices and healthy behaviors. Your Digital Health Advisor participants will earn Walgreens Balance Rewards points for making progress in achieving their goals.

The suite of services being built around the Walgreens app is becoming increasingly impressive and could become a potent asset as clinicians seek new resources for managing increasingly complex patients. For example, one discussion I frequently have with my patients is around smoking cessation. I often refer them to free state resources that provide counseling and other forms of support. One benefit of the EMR is that I actually know where my patients’ fill their prescriptions. If it’s Walgreens, another resource I could suggest would be the digital health advisor and its program around smoking cessation. And if the promise of longer life, happier lungs, and less chance of heart attack isn’t enough, maybe the more tangible $10 coupon will be.

I’ll certainly be looking forward to seeing how these tools ultimately take shape to see whether I’d recommend them to my patients. But when it comes to driving healthy lifestyle changes, additional tools – particularly innovative, easy to use, and practical options like what Walgreens seems to be developing – are welcome.