Shifts in consumer lifestyle and expectations have given innovators the opportunity to enter the healthcare space and capture market share with their modern, enhanced patient experiences. Instead of standing on the sidelines, CVS and Aetna have banded together to compete with healthcare disruptors. Today, CVS and Aetna finally closed their long-expected merger ringing in at a price of $70 billion.

Combining a pharmacy, pharmacy benefit manager, retail health clinic, and insurance firm under one roof comes with many possibilities. CVS will drive growth by simplifying the care process and giving patients access to resources that help them to improve their health. Aetna expects to see improved clinical outcomes and lower costs by offering basic care at CVS MinuteClinics while simultaneously cutting down on doctor and emergency room visits.

What It Means

Patients will no longer tolerate a disjointed experience when it comes to their health. Like other industries, consumers will demand a seamless experience at a moment’s notice. Anything less will drive patients to seek personalized, convenient care elsewhere. According to NRC Health, 80% of patients would switch providers for convenience factors alone.[i] This is where CVS/Aetna comes in.

CVS/Aetna will eliminate the need to go through the lengthy process of scheduling, waiting, traveling, and billing of traditional care delivery. This new partnership can provide on-demand care for patients while lowering healthcare costs. It is crucial that healthcare organizations (HCOs) focus on:

  • Investing in virtual care. With virtual care expected to outpace traditional care delivery in 2020, providers, payers, and retail health clinics alike must invest in this emerging technology.[ii] With virtual doctors a few clicks away, consumers with immediate needs won’t think twice about going digital for the convenience. Currently, CVS’s video visits are limited to 17 states, while online visits (which involve answering a few questions and receiving a response within 2 hours) are limited to two. There is opportunity to acquire new customers and lead in markets with limited virtual-visit capabilities.
  • Enhancing interoperability capabilities. Retail clinics can access health records from other CVS MinuteClinics and may have access to certain information, such as problems, allergies, medications, and immunization. However, the interoperability of their systems is lacking in areas such as health history data from other providers, patient-generated health data, etc. Improvements in data sharing and the development of personal health records can empower patients to take control of their health. By giving patients access to their health records, healthcare organizations can retain customers and improve health outcomes.

This combination of retail health clinic, pharmacy, pharmacy benefit manager, and insurance will cause further disruption and may set the precedent for mergers across the industry. Given that Walgreens and Humana are in preliminary discussions about a possible partnership, it is critical that HCOs continue to innovate with a strong focus on patient experience. If HCOs don’t put personalization and convenience first, they will find themselves struggling as industry sectors consolidate.

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[i] Source: “Effortless care experiences,” NRC Health (https://nrchealth.com

[ii] Source: “Predictions 2019: Healthcare” Forrester report