Interview with Adam Pellegrini Walgreens, VP of Digital Health

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In less than one week, the Health 2.0 8th Annual Fall Conference will feature over 200 LIVE demos, 150 speakers, on over 60 panels and sessions focused on innovative solutions within health care technology.  Indu Subaiya, CEO & Co-Founder of Health 2.0 interviewed Adam Pellegrini, VP of Digital Health of Walgreens ahead of his appearance at the 8th Annual Health 2.0 Fall Conference. Adam will be participating in the Monday main stage panel “Consumer Tech and Wearables: Powering Healthy Lifestyles.” In this interview, Adam gives insight into Walgreens innovative API creating the seamless user experience.

Indu Subaiya: So you are leading up a number of very exciting initiatives at Walgreens in terms of digital health. Let’s begin by talking a bit about the API program and the developer ecosystem that you’ve built.

Adam Pellegrini: Absolutely. So Walgreens has been offering a very robust API program for quite some time – this idea that our stores in the online space should be really an omni-channel user experience.  If you think about our stores, our stores actually have a lot of partners that actually have products in the stores.

So really, our API program is really about partners. It’s about bringing and facilitating the digital ecosystem together via API.  So for us in the Health API space, it’s about how do we help all of these different apps leverage the ingredient technologies that Walgreens has created to create a seamless friction as user experience.

IS: You mentioned that the Health API has drawn a lot of members within the Health 2.0 community.  Can you tell us a little bit about some partners there and how this is then connected to your Balance Rewards program?

AP: GenieMD is actually one of our partner apps that leverage our Refill by Scan, our personal health app that goes on both Androids and iPhones.  And some of that could be really convenient and add a value to their app by embedding the API that we have for refilling prescriptions, the Refill by Scan.

So those, as well as Healthspek and PocketPharmacist, all of these different apps have adopted the Walgreens prescription API, and it basically added that ingredient to their own experience.  So for us, we are obviously very proud to be able to offer these APIs, but are very thankful that our partners have done very unique ways of building them into their own consumer experience.

IS: How does this then translate into the Balance Rewards program, because you’ve had tremendous traction and uptake with that and the partnerships specifically with Rare Gold device companies?

AP: Yeah, absolutely.  So the Balance Rewards Program, specifically what we call “Balance Rewards for healthy choices” is a program where we’re rewarding our customers with balance rewards points for getting fit, eating right, and managing their health.  We have opened up our Balance Rewards API to partners that have that same shared vision of getting people healthy and focusing on those same areas of getting fit, eating right, and managing  health.

So organizations like Fitbit, Withings, iHealth, MapMyFitness Lose It!, MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper, all of which work with Walgreens in multiple ways, found that this would be a nice ingredient for them to add to their own experience.  Frankly, it’s a great way of rewarding consumers no matter where they’re at along the healthy choices journey.

It was us providing something to our partners that we value, and it was also something that we know that we can reward our customers.  Even if it’s on other apps or other web properties, at the end of the day, the goal is to get folks happy and healthy.

So with that growing ecosystem of partners, we have seen a groundswell of consumers engaged in the program, earning points, and interestingly enough, very focused on the social aspects/online social networks where Balance Rewards for healthy choices allows them to come together and talk, share recipes and share tips and insights.The idea is rewarding those tiny habits, those small changes so that they can create their own personal victory.

IS: And you’re seeing some pretty strong numbers here, as well as both in terms of numbers of users, as well as that engagement level?

AP: Absolutely. The numbers keep growing and growing on a daily basis with regards to engagements.  We’ve seen over 1.8 million active users in the program.  We’ve given out over 3 billion points for healthy behaviors, and folks have logged over 200 million miles in the program. We’re seeing that engagement curve take up very sharply, and we’re seeing the numbers.  Frankly, a lot of our partners have seen it is the right thing to do because it’s really tackling those core pillars of primary prevention.   I think that’s something that we can all get behind and be proud of..

Engagement numbers are very powerful because often times, you wonder how long people will stay connected or stay active.  We believe that it’s the combination of rewards and  taking simple steps, the small changes towards being healthy, that really help folks tackle small victories.   I think that’s what has caused this momentum of adoption.

IS: Yeah, that’s great. There are really some big numbers there. Looking ahead at the future of the retail experience, how are you thinking the roles — like digital health, play in that?  Are you doing some interesting experimental work now with Google and others?  We’d love to hear your thoughts and kind of your visions for how Walgreens as a retailer incorporates the future of digital health.

AP: For us, we really want to make sure our omni-channel experience remains true – that our approach  supports a frictionless experience both online or offline.  It makes it effortless for customers to engage wherever, whenever and however they choose.  It seems like Google’s Project Tango, really, what we want to be able to do is show that just because you’re in a store doesn’t mean you can’t have a digital experience, or just because you’re online doesn’t mean you can’t have that same feeling of being able to interact with someone in the store.

So we believe that the future truly is a seamless experience both from online to offline and back to online again.  When where, if I’m in a store, I can see all the value that the online brings even if I’m in the store.  For example, perhaps there’s a flu shot campaign going on and I may not have even seen the sign, but now, I can get an alert or a notification to go back and get my flu shot.  I can look around and I can see this is where the glucometers are and go up to a glucometer, find out whether there were reviews on this glucometer.  Is it right for me?  Do I need all the features and functionalities?  And provide that in simple tidbits so that it can educate me while I’m looking at devices, and potentially connect to coaches that can actually say, “Yeah, that’s a good one and that fits your style.”

So really–we see digital enabling the store.  We see the store being that critical answer point for all of our consumers, and making sure when they leave the store, we can still give them a great experience no matter where they are.

IS: That’s really exciting and we look forward to learning a lot more about everything that you’re doing at Walgreens.  All of the initiatives sound really, really interesting and already quite successful.  So we look forward to having an update from you in a few weeks.  Thank you so much for sharing time with us.

AP: Well, thank you very much.  We’re very excited to participatein Health 2.0.