Loblaw is taking a big step in increasing its shoppers’ access to virtual care. The Toronto-based retailer is investing $75 million in Canadian virtual care provider Maple, gaining a minority share in the company.
Maples telemedicine platform allows patients to connect with a range of healthcare professionals, including general practitioners, specialists and allied health professionals. Loblaw said that its investment in Maple comes as its Shoppers Drug Mart banner aims to make telehealth more accessible and focuses on a seamless move between virtual and in-person health care.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that Canadians need new ways, particularly virtual ways, to get access to care," said Jeff Leger, President, Shoppers Drug Mart. "We know that the future of healthcare is digitally enabled. We believe that our store network and infrastructure, combined with Maple's technology can help better connect Canadians to the healthcare support they need, whenever and wherever they are."
Prior to this investment, Loblaw and Maple had partnered twice before. One hundred and sixty Shoppers Drug Mart locations in British Columbia currently offering Maple virtual care, and in the early days of the pandemic, the two companies worked to make Maple’s offering accessible to more patients. In less than a month, patients completed nearly 20,000 visits.
"We've watched virtual care solve some of the most complex healthcare issues around the globe, as well as right here in Canada through our own programs," says Dr. Brett Belchetz, CEO and co-founder of Maple. "We're thrilled to work hand-in-hand with Shoppers Drug Mart to bring the reliable, convenient, and high-quality access to care that we've developed over the past five years to more Canadians than ever before."
Loblaw said the investment also plays a role in building its connected healthcare strategy, alongside its QHR electronic medical records business; Wellwise, a retail concept focused on aging consumers from Shoppers Drug Mart; and The Health Clinic by Shoppers clinics, which offer primary and family care.