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Atlantic Canadians are the first people in the country with access to Loblaw Cos. Ltd.’s new app, which aims to change how people access health care.
The company announced the launch of the free PC Health app on Thursday for the Atlantic region, and it will be rolled out across the country over the next few months.
Doug Bryce, vice-president of health and wellness programs and innovation for Loblaw subsidiary Shoppers Drug Mart, says the company believes it is empowering Canadians to better manage their medical needs.
It is starting in the Atlantic provinces because the company felt like there is a big need for that kind of thing in the region, Bryce told me in an interview.
Although the app and the advice nurses will be doling out over the phone in association with it are free, he said, there is a trade-off.
Bryce acknowledged that Brampton, Ont.-based Loblaw will be able to collect more personal data on those who participate in the program, but it allows the company to provide more specific advice and services to the individual based on their profile.
Loblaw follows its credo of helping Canadians Live Life Well by providing the building blocks to help people create their best life and future, said Bryce, adding that the PC Health app is, in baseball terms, “right down the middle of the plate” of what the company is trying to accomplish.
Although Loblaw is best known as Canada’s largest grocery chain, with store brands like Superstore and No Frills, its Shoppers Drug Mart chain is the largest drugstore brand in the country.
Bryce said Loblaw has a broad and important health business and that part of that is certainly growing.
Since it acquired Shoppers Drug Mart in 2014, Loblaw has been steadily expanding its interest in the health sector. Just this past September, Loblaw spent $75 million to acquire a minority stake in Maple Corp., the largest virtual health provider in Canada. Maple helps connect people with doctors and medical specialists using a smartphone or computer.
Loblaw acquired a leader in the electronic medical records market in 2016, QHR Corp., for $170 million. It also runs the Health Clinic by Shoppers, a primary-care and family practice clinic, and Wellwise, a new retail brand offered by Shoppers Drug Mart.
The focus at Wellwise is on wellness instead of illness. It sells specialty products for consumers seeking to age gracefully and for people with certain medical conditions.
The company has said that the COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified the health challenges for Atlantic Canadians in recent months, and the PC Health app aims to help people better navigate the medical system.
It provides real-time access to personalized health programs and live chat with registered nurses and dietitians. Bryce said an added incentive is the opportunity to earn rewards with PC Optimum.
Health programs built into the app are customized according to each user’s personal health priorities and are designed to help individuals develop healthy habits, he said.
Free educational content is combined with daily challenges and lifestyle activities that, as they are completed, will earn Optimum points.
Although not available yet, the PC Health app will soon add virtual physician care and digital pharmacy as the program expands.