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Walgreen Co. is partnering with health information website WebMD to encourage customers to make healthier choices by rewarding them with discounts.

Starting early next year, Walgreens will offer rewards points on its Balance Rewards loyalty card for logging healthy activities on the WebMD Healthy Target app.

Users can upload data from various widgets that track things like steps and glucose levels. The Balance Rewards card gives customers points for what they buy, which can be redeemed for cash off subsequent purchases.

“Walgreens rewards points become the incentive gauge to have them use (the app) more,” said WebMD CEO David Schlanger. “They now have this financial incentive to engage in these healthy behaviors.”

WebMD also provides online health coaching to people whose insurance plans or companies have contracts with WebMD. This is the first time the online programs that help people quit smoking, lose weight, eat healthy and exercise regularly are being made available to the masses — at least anyone with a rewards card and an iPhone.

The hope is that the combination of two “trusted brands,” Walgreen President Alex Gourlay said, will drive more loyalty members at Walgreens stores and grow WebMD’s presence.

WebMD, best known for helping people identify mysterious ailments, logs 64 million unique visitors each month. Walgreen Co. has 12,400 drugstores in 14 countries and 8 million customers daily.

Gourlay said the integration meets customers’ increasing desire to be digitally connected.

“We want our stores to remain popular, but we want to give customers access on their terms,” Gourlay said. “The whole idea of happy and healthy is to provide the right solutions in the area of health care in a way that gives them the best advice and the best information. ... This is right in the sweet spot of happy and healthy.”

Walgreens will integrate some of WebMD’s health advice, on topics such as allergies, skin care, healthy aging and heart health, in its bricks-and-mortar locations and on its website and apps. WebMD will make available on its website Walgreens’ online prescription refills and health care clinic appointment scheduling.

“The lines will be blurred even more when we start taking the WebMD coaching capability and integrating it into Walgreens’ digital experience,” Schlanger said. “We have many of the same customers. The same people going to WebMD are going into Walgreens stores to fill prescriptions. ... The most important thing about this business relationship is to give them more services to improve their care.”

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