In a recent Q1 earnings call, Karen Lynch, CVS Health president and CEO, laid out the retail giant’s plans for care delivery. “Our strategy is to deliver a single integrated experience that connects individuals to a CVS care team, virtually and face-to-face, by navigating consumers to the best site of care,” she explained.
Increasingly, that site of care is inside the walls of CVS Health retail outlets, particularly its 650 HealthHUBs, with services continuing to expand as the company broadens its vision to reshape health care and facilitate 65 billion health care interactions over the next decade.
The company’s most recent move on this front is to expand mental health and counseling services at 34 of its stores in underserved urban areas of Florida, Texas and Pennsylvania to increase access and reduce patient costs. It’s an extension of a pilot program launched in January at 12 CVS Health outlets.
CVS-contracted, licensed therapists will be able to treat moderate symptoms of depression and anxiety, conduct a detailed assessment and create a patient care plan. After a consult, therapists can refer patients to their own respective primary care providers for ongoing counseling and refer those who need higher levels of care to a specialist, but won’t be able to prescribe medications. And once again, CVS will use its leverage with Aetna, which it bought in late 2018, to drive its efforts.
No Out-of-Pocket Costs for Covered Visits
CVS will cover the cost of therapist visits at CVS outlets for Aetna-insured patients and reportedly has negotiated similar agreements with a growing number of other insurers, although the company thus far has declined to name them. This will save patients’ money, and CVS is betting it will do the same for the company. Elsewhere, Cigna recently announced a partnership with Ginger to provide behavioral health services to its 14 million individual and employer-sponsored members.
Expanding Community-Based Free Biometric Screening
CVS recently expanded its Project Health no-cost, community-based screening program to 14 more markets. Now in its 16th year, the program offers free biometric screenings at CVS pharmacy locations, including blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol readings. Patients then can meet with a nurse, who can provide guidance and treatment referrals if needed. The program will launch four new mobile units to provide 1,700 screening events across the U.S. by year-end.
Venture Fund Launch Targets Innovative Startups
In addition to its moves to expand health care services within its stores, CVS is looking to fund digital health startups to scale innovation and accelerate changes in consumer health. The company recently launched CVS Health Ventures, a $100 million venture capital fund targeting early-stage, health-tech disruptors that can make care more accessible, affordable and simpler.
CVS also will offer its expertise and insights to early-stage companies in which it invests that are anchored in CVS Health’s core strategy.
This builds on the more than 20 investments CVS and Aetna businesses already have made in ventures like the social-determinants-of-health care coordination platform UniteUs and the point-of-care diagnostic platform LumiraDx.