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Doctor CVS is in the house: How CVS’ latest moves are changing healthcare delivery

Here’s what you should know about CVS’ evolving role in an ever-changing healthcare delivery system.

CVS is no longer just the pharmacy in your neighborhood. It increasingly serves as a primary care provider and has launched initiatives related to chronic disease care and social services.

Here’s what you should know about CVS’ evolving role in an ever-changing healthcare delivery system.

CVS has shaken up primary care

There’s no doubt that primary care options are diversifying. CVS’ moves into primary care have been expansive and swift.

  • CVS’s MinuteClinics offer appointments and walk-in services for minor illnesses and injuries, vaccinations, physicals and screenings, among other care historically delivered by primary care providers.
  • MinuteClinic’s telehealth services are now available in 26 states, offering consumers $59 appointments 24/7.
  • CVS plans to open 1,500 HealthHUBs by the end of 2021. The HealthHUB model expands on MinuteClinics’ services, including in the areas of chronic disease management.

These changes in primary care delivery may result in broader access to primary care. However, such disruption has had an impact on traditional care providers. An increasing number of patients are getting seen in alternative settings, disrupting the establishment of relationships and medical histories.  

CVS focuses on chronic disease care, including care at home

On July 10, President Trump signed an executive order that set ambitious goals for treating kidney disease.

“(Trump administration) officials said they wanted 80 percent of newly diagnosed people with end-stage kidney disease to be moved from clinic-based dialysis by the year 2025, and to reduce the number of Americans who develop end-stage disease by 25 percent before 2030.” – The New York Times

One week later, CVS announced a clinical trial evaluating the safety and efficacy of the HemoCare Hemodialysis System. This device is designed to make home hemodialysis simpler. In its announcement, CVS Health noted the clinical trial’s alignment with the executive order:

“Our CVS Kidney Care focus aligns with the core objectives of this new initiative, and we are committed to transforming the health care system to better meet the needs of patients and reduce overall costs.”  

This initiative is another way that CVS will be able to engage patients who currently get such care in hospitals and outpatient clinics. Adding to the likelihood of CVS’ success in this area are new proposed rules from the Trump administration to allow consumers more choice in where they get their kidney care - including their homes.

It’s important to note that kidney care is just one area of chronic disease CVS has focused on; CVS is also piloting retail-based programs on patients with diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, asthma and depression.

CVS announces “Destination: Health” social care network

On July 24, CVS announced its intent to launch its “Destination: Health” platform, which will aim to address social determinants of health by connecting patients with local social service providers. The platform will also support CVS and Aetna’s affordable housing work. According to Fierce Healthcare, CVS and Aetna “have put $40.5 million toward the construction or renovation of more than 1,600 housing units across 19 states;” CVS plans to invest $50 million by the end of the year.

CVS is creating the Destination: Health platform in partnership with Unite Us, a New York-based start-up whose software and services help build networks of providers who can screen and track patients’ non-healthcare needs, manage referrals to social services resources and track outcomes.

The Destination: Health network will launch later this year with select Aetna Medicaid and dual-eligible members in Kentucky, Florida and Louisiana.

Traditional and non-traditional providers are transforming healthcare

There’s no doubt that non-traditional providers such as CVS have advantages when it comes to acting on a directive such as President Trump’s executive order on kidney care. They are not hamstrung by many of the regulatory standards hospitals must meet; that alone allows them to be more nimble.

Despite that, hospitals are actively innovating care delivery, as well.

New York’s hospitals and health systems are right in the thick of this change – embracing new digital tools and technologies, establishing hospital-at-home programs, partnering with local organizations to improve community health, tackling social determinants of health, investing in new facilities and more – to increase New Yorkers’ access to care, quality and convenience.

Healthcare delivery is rapidly changing through the efforts of traditional and non-traditional care providers, such as CVS. It will be important to continue to pay attention to these new forms of delivery – and to develop partnerships with new healthcare players where opportunities make sense.