- Rite Aid is taking another shot at telehealth kiosks.
The national pharmacy chain, which saw its first foray into kiosks go south two years ago with the demise of HealthSpot, has agreed to a telehealth partnership with California-based telehealth provider InTouch Health.
Under the deal, InTouch Health will provide its virtual care platform for kiosks and other “alternative care sites” in Rite Aid pharmacies across the country. The timing and number of pharmacies haven’t been announced, but Rite Aid currently operates about 2,250 stores and is expected to add more than 2,100 new locations upon completion of its merger with the Albertson’s grocery store chain.
“Rite Aid has long believed in telehealth as an opportunity to improve the level of care we can offer our patients,” Jocelyn Konrad, Rite Aid’s executive vice president of pharmacy, said in a press release. “We are excited to be working with InTouch, a well-established telehealth company, to create a solution that will potentially help us provide our patients and communities with access to quality, convenient healthcare.”
The partnership is the latest in a string of telehealth collaborations involving health systems, pharmacies and retail sites.
Late last year, Florida’s BayCare Health System launched a telehealth partnership with the Publix supermarket chain, enabling the health system to open kiosks in select supermarkets while allowing Public to open pharmacies in some hospitals. In New York, meanwhile, NewYork-Presbyterian launched a partnership with Walgreen’s, giving that health system an opportunity to open telehealth kiosks in select pharmacies.
Kiosks are also seeing new interest. Earlier this year, Express Scripts launched a pilot program in Arizona to connect consumers to pharmacy services through kiosks developed by MedAvail and deployed in public locations in Phoenix and Tucson.
“This consumer experience can do for pharmacy care what the ATM did for personal banking – enable greater access and efficiency, especially during times of immediate need, while streamlining the experience for those consumers who need expert counsel and support from a pharmacist,” Glen Stettin, MD, Express Scripts’ Chief Innovation Officer, said in a press release. “We believe this technology, when deployed on a larger scale, could have the potential to bring pharmacy dispensing to employer sites, hospital emergency rooms, community clinics and university campuses.”
For InTouch Health, the deal caps off a busy six months of expansion.
The telehealth company best known for its RP-VITA telemedicine robot acquired Utah-based TruClinic in January, then followed that up with the acquisition of Georgia-based REACH Health this past April. That deal, announced at the American Telemedicine Association’s annual conference in Chicago, signaled the company’s emergence as a major player in enterprise-wide telehealth and telemedicine services for health systems.
Healthcare providers “are looking to bring their virtual care delivery system all under one roof,” Yulun Wang, PhD, InTouch Health’s, Chairman, Founder and Chief Innovation Officer, told mHealthIntelligence at the ATA conference. They’re moving away from telehealth and telemedicine programs that are started in one department or campus and looking for an overarching platform that can handle everything from high-acuity care to consumer-facing services to the growing field of remote patient monitoring.
Now, the company is identifying new service lines for telehealth.
“In a time where our industry is rapidly evolving, we see an opportunity to bring virtual care to patients in a whole new way that intersects with patients in convenient locations like Rite Aid pharmacies,” Joseph M. DeVivo, InTouch Health’s CEO, said in the release announcing the Rite Aid deal. “At InTouch Health, we believe virtual care can be the bridge of consistent patient engagement that not only increases access to care, but also drives improved care coordination and decreases cost for all stakeholders. We applaud Rite Aid’s commitment to exploring telehealth solutions and look forward to bringing our combined vision to life in this new era.”