Changing with the Times – CVS Plays Innovator

On February 5, CVS Caremark sent shockwaves through healthcare and retail circles when it announced it would stop selling tobacco products at its 7,600 stores by October of this year. The move was estimated to cost the company some $2 billion per year. It’s hard to believe people when they say something isn’t about the money, but this time, it really wasn’t about the money. It was about helping people live longer, fuller, healthier lives. And it was a bold, forward-looking move by CVS.

Now, the pharmacy giant is catapulting itself into the future again, as it partners with more traditional providers across the country. With last week’s announcement of more partnerships, CVS now has established affiliations with healthcare providers in six states: Hartford HealthCare and ProHealth Physicians in Connecticut, Memorial Health in Georgia, Lahey Health and Baystate Health in Massachusetts, Texas Health Resources in Texas, Palmetto Health in South Carolina and The Baton Rouge Clinic in Louisiana. Most of these affiliations revolve around so-called MinuteClinics, where doctors can treat conditions that do not require a trip to an emergency room or an urgent care center.

It’s a huge step in the direction of population health management – keeping chronically ill patients out of the hospital and leading healthier lives – of the same vein as the decision to quit selling tobacco products.

“MinuteClinic locations are not intended to act as primary care sites, but instead complement the work of the primary care physicians by supporting their efforts in providing convenient and accessible care,” CVS officials told ­HealthLeaders in an email. “MinuteClinic provides treatment for common family illnesses and administers wellness and prevention services, including health-condition monitoring for patient with chronic diseases.”

So far, in the era of “Obamacare,” CVS is making a name for itself as an innovator planning for the future. Its competitors may want to take note.

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