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Digital doctor: CVS to offer smartphone telemedicine service

CVS plans to offer a nationwide service via its smartphone app for diagnosis of conditions like colds and flu, skin issues and general wellness matters.
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(Credit: Thinkstock)

Think of it as a digital doctor.

Drug store giant CVS Health plans to offer a nationwide service to treat easy-to-diagnose maladies and other medical issues via its smartphone app.

The telemedicine service will be offered for diagnosis of conditions like colds and flu, skin issues and general wellness matters.

The video visit service, which will be provided on smartphones, will cost $59 and can be paid by credit card or debit card. CVS, which is close to acquiring health insurance firm Aetna, said insurance coverage on the telemedicine service will be available "in the coming months."

The move reflects an expansion of the CVS MinuteClinic brand. It comes as the drugstore chain is seeking approval of its deal to acquire Aetna in a sweeping plan to diversify its business.

The telemedicine service will be available at all hours every day in a partnership with virtual care company Teladoc on the CVS Pharmacy app.

“At CVS Health, we’re committed to delivering high-quality care when and where our patients need it and at prices they can afford," CVS Health Chief Medical Officer Troyen Brennan said in a statement. "Through this new tele-health offering, patients now have an additional option for seeking care that is even more convenient for them.”

CVS said that after completing a questionnaire, each patient is given "a board-certified health care provider licensed in their state, who will review the completed questionnaire with the patient’s medical history, and proceed with the video-enabled visit."

The chain is initially offering the tele-health service in Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Virginia and Washington, D.C. It will be rolled out nationwide by the end of the year, "where allowed," the company said.

CVS has made other moves recently to extend its services beyond its walls. The company is offering rapid home delivery of prescriptions, for example.

Analysts say the company is taking steps to overhaul its business as it faces the retail industry's decline, calls for alternative forms of health care services and the prospect of Amazon.com's entry into the online pharmacy business.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.

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