- CVS Health, the largest pharmacy chain in the US, set up its first three “HealthHUBs” in Houston in February.
- The stores have an increased focus on health services, including a wellness center and more chronic care management for diseases like diabetes.
- Take a look inside one of the new stores that could change how Americans get their healthcare.
CVS Health and Aetna officially merged at the end of 2018, combining a chain of nearly 10,000 pharmacies that also owns a drug benefits business with one of the biggest US health insurers.
The result is an entirely new healthcare company that can wield a tremendous amount of power over how healthcare gets paid for and provided to patients.
One of the ways CVS is focusing that power is through new “HealthHUB” stores, the first three of which opened in Houston in February. The stores have an increased focus on health services, including a wellness center and more chronic care management for diseases like diabetes, committing about 20% of the physical store space to health endeavours rather than snacks or other convenient store supplies.
The strategy also helps CVS find new use for the floor space in its 9,800 locations, as customers increasingly shop for everyday goods on websites like Amazon. And providing more care in stores can help CVS counter forays by rivals like Amazon into healthcare. Amazon, for its part, acquired the pharmacy startup PillPack last year, marking its entry into the drug-delivery business.
Walking up to the store, it’s clear that the location is going to have a different feel to the traditional part pharmacy, part convenience store feel most CVS stores have. On the doors, it lays out what’s inside with a big “Welcome to the HealthHUB” sign.
Inside, there’s a familiar feel to the beauty products, snacks, and other supplies at the front of the store. An aisle leads toward the health services along the back and sides of the store.
Here’s what the main meeting area for the health hub looks like. This location has a MinuteClinic, labelled over the top of the greeting area. CVS already has about 1,100 MinuteClinics across its stores.
The stores have a “care concierge,” whose job is to guide individuals to different services, help them understand how their health insurance works, or help them use health and wellness devices and technology.
For example, there are iPads at a station where customers can explore different health apps, or in this case, games.
There are also areas where customers can check in on their health. This Higi station can screen for blood pressure, pulse, weight, and BMI.
These are rooms for MinuteClinic appointments along the walls.
The MinuteClinics in the pilot stores will offer more services, including disease screenings and blood draws. They’re usually staffed by nurse practitioners or physicians’ assistants, and now provide basic checkups and care for minor illnesses and ailments. The hope with the health hub is to expand that into more chronic care, managing diseases like diabetes and sleep apnea.
Over at the pharmacy, not a ton looks different. Adjoining the pharmacy counter is a consultation room where pharmacists can administer flu shots and immunizations or provide wellness support for people with diabetes or those trying to quit smoking.
The room is located to the left of the main health hub concierge desk, connecting the pharmacy area to the hub.
CVS Health intends to devote 20% of the new health hub stores to health services, including selling medical equipment like walkers.
According to the National Health Expenditures report, durable medical equipment made up about 2% — or $US64.1 billion — of overall medical spending in the US. It’s an area other pharmacies as well as Amazon are in.
The health hub also has wellness rooms, a larger space in the store where CVS employees can host fitness or nutrition classes or educate health insurance members about their benefits.
Here’s what a nutrition consultation looks like inside the wellness rooms.
The health hubs are key to CVS’s strategy to keep patients healthier and out of the hospitals, now that CVS owns health insurer Aetna. It’s a big bet that consumers will want to use retail pharmacies as their “new front door to health.”
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