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Maggie Kohn headshot

CVS Emphasizes Consumer Health with HealthHUBs Expansion

By Maggie Kohn

CVS is making good on its pledge to put consumer health first by announcing this week that it will turn 1,500 of its nearly 10,000 stores into HealthHUB locations, with 20 percent less retail space and more on-site health services.

It’s all part of the company's new social purpose business strategy following its $69 billion acquisition of Aetna last year. 

"Our new strategy ensures we put our capabilities and resources to work in tangible ways that make a difference in our local communities and in people's lives," said Larry J. Merlo, President and Chief Executive Officer for CVS Health, in the company’s 12th annual corporate responsibility report, featuring its new platform, Better Health, Better Community, Better World.

While it may be more difficult to pick up a birthday card for mom at the expanded network of HealthHub locations, CVS consumers will be able to get screened for diabetes, assessed for sleep apnea, have blood drawn, and even take a yoga class or a class on nutrition from a licensed dietician. Pharmacists in the HealthHUBs will make regular calls and in-person consultations to help patients stay on track with their prescription drug plans. And, the concept stores will employ what CVS is calling a "care concierge," a special greeter who will provide advice to customers on how to get the most out of their visit.

Why CVS is helping to expand affordable healthcare options 

CVS HealthHUBs are poised to help millions of Americans who are searching for more convenient and affordable health care services in the wake of the ongoing efforts in Washington to scale-back the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. These stores will provide a one-stop shop experience: get diagnosed, pick up your prescription. Learn about better nutrition, pick up a protein bar on the way out.

And while the HealthHUBs help CVS fulfill its social mission of “helping people on their path to better health,” they also help address the growing pressure to retail sales from online rivals and from investors to make the Aetna acquisition pay off.

According to a recent report in USA Today, in the first nine months of 2018, pharmacy prescription sales at CVS were more than three times retail product sales. And retail sales were up only 1.5 percent during that period.

From an insurer perspective, what’s good for CVS customers is also good for Aetna members. The healthier members are, the more likely they are to avoid a trip to the ER, hospitalization or costly procedures. For Aetna, that means higher revenues and profits.

A merger for social good

The model also leverages the synergies of Aetna and CVS. As Bloomberg explained following Tuesday’s announcement, “Because it’s an insurer, it knows when someone is overdue for a diabetes checkup and it can  remind them when they arrive at the pharmacy counter. CVS can schedule and provide that appointment, and also can arrange follow-up interventions like a consultation with a dietician, helping patients better adhere to their care plans so they stay healthier and avert the need for costly measures in the future.”

Only time will tell if CVS will be able to deliver on both its purpose and profits but moving to a focus on increased access to quality care, better health outcomes and lower overall health care costs seems like a solid step in the right direction.

For Eileen Howard Boone, Senior Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility and Philanthropy, at CVS, it’s a no-brainer. "We believe our greatest opportunities ahead will be a result of our ability to meaningfully impact the health of local communities, bringing together the power of our business and strategic community investment."

One question is if CVS will take its model outside the U.S., where access to quality, affordable care is even more of an unmet need. No word yet on if the company plans to introduce HealthHUBs in Brazil, the only country outside the U.S. where it is present.  Just imagine the potential for CVS to deliver purpose and profit in other markets such as Mexico, Nigeria and Thailand. We’ll have to wait and see; for now, the company is betting that the U.S. consumer will show that its approach works.

Image credit: Mike Mozart/Flickr

Maggie Kohn headshot

Maggie Kohn is excited to be a contributor to Triple Pundit to illustrate how business can achieve positive change in the world while supporting long-term growth. Maggie worked for more than 20 years at the biopharma giant Merck & Co., Inc., leading corporate responsibility and social business initiatives. She currently writes, speaks and consults on corporate responsibility and social impact when she is not busy fostering kittens for her local animal shelter. Click here to learn more.

Read more stories by Maggie Kohn