How America's Biggest Drug Store Plans to Transform Healthcare

"Transforming the consumer health care experience begins with creating a new front door to health care"

May 20, 2019

If you have lived or visited the US, you know that CVS is a neighborhood one-stop pharmacy where you can purchase just about anything and pick up your prescriptions too. For many, it is the epitome of convenience with great service, selection, and sales.

Now, CVS doesn't want to be just a neighborhood drug store anymore. The largest pharmacy chain in the US changed its name and its mission when it purchased Aetna Health Care in 2018. CVS Health wants to transform the healthcare experience, and they are doing it in the place where most people go shopping for toothpaste and shampoo along with their health aids.

The company already began that journey with Pharmacy support programs and MinuteClinic services that are staffed by nurse practitioners who provide screenings and treatment. And in December 2018, the company took a big leap forward by opening three pilot HealthHUB sites in CVS pharmacies in Houston, Texas.

“We believe that transforming the consumer health care experience begins with creating a new front door to health care,” said Alan Lotvin, chief transformation officer for CVS Health in a company press release. “Our new HealthHUB locations are just that — helping to elevate the store into a convenient neighborhood health care destination that brings easier access to better care at a lower cost.”

These locations offer a broad range of health care services with on-demand health kiosks, personalized care, digital tools, and a host of new products. Over 20 percent of the stores are now dedicated to health services, medical care equipment like wheelchairs and monitors, and supplies. Many of these are products that CVS never carried before.

The stores will still feature all the conveniences of a typical CVS pharmacy, so people can still pick up greeting cards, deodorants, and seasonal items but the displays will be smaller to make room for more health-focused products.

The new hubs will primarily help customers manage chronic health care conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and asthma. Chronic diseases are the leading cause of death and disability in the US, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 70 percent of diseases in the US are lifestyle driven. To help customers eat healthier, one-on-one, and group counseling is available by a CVS trained and licensed dietician.

Each HealthHUB actually has a care concierge, a new position created for the hubs, who is responsible for customer engagement and education about the new services. “We refer to this care concierge as the Geek Squad for health care,” Kevin Hourican, president of CVS Pharmacy told Fast Company.

There are also community spaces for things like yoga or health care seminars, eye exams, digital learning tables, and health and wellness apps in addition to the MinuteClinics. The yoga classes have been very popular, especially for seniors, according to the company.

While special pharmacy consultation services are offered for Aetna insurance patients, all of these new hub services are available for everyone.

Customer response has been very positive, and according to the company, 95 percent of the time the concierge engaged with a customer, the person wanted to have the conversation, and more than half were referred to a service.

“Most of the time, I would run into the CVS Pharmacy when I was sick or just needed a few convenience items,” Jacqueline Haynes, a longtime CVS Pharmacy customer, and Houston resident said in the press release. “I was quite surprised with all of the health and wellness products, support services and community events inside the store. HealthHUB makes you want to be healthy and stay healthy.”

“We’re pleased and surprised pleasantly with the ecosystem of health care that we’ve created here and how approachable it is, how much people are interested in it and there are certain things we can take to all stores,” Hourican told CNBC.

The company is quick to point out that the hubs do not replace primary care doctors and sees itself as complementing traditional health care. The stores are open evenings and weekends when doctors' offices are not or when a customer needs a nonemergency test.

The HealthHUBs nurse practitioner refers customers to doctors or specialists if they need more medical attention. The MinuteClinics fill a niche in the American healthcare system because 50 percent of users do not have a primary doctor mostly due to lack of insurance.

“What we’re seeing with big integrated health systems is that they are looking for more efficient ways to deliver primary care,” Lotvin told Fast Company. “You don’t need a physician to titrate someone’s blood pressure medications. Working in collaboration with a nurse practitioner who puts everything into the electronic medical record is very efficient.”

CVS plans on expanding the hubs to more large cities, but the locations have not been announced yet. The company is planning on conducting customer focus groups to see what is working and what needs to be changed before scaling the project.

We have a sense of urgency about the need to bring real change to health care,” Hourican stressed. “What’s clear to us is that it will take more than incremental steps to fix what is broken in the healthcare system. That’s why we’re excited about how the combination of CVS and Aetna can begin to establish an innovative health care model that will create an entirely new consumer experience and help people on their path to better health.”  

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.

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