At stores and online, health care moves closer to customer
Health care is moving closer to patients.
Drugstores are expanding the care and support they offer, and telemedicine is bringing doctors and therapists to the family room couch as the system shifts to help people stay healthy and attract customers who want convenience.
CVS Health offered the latest example Tuesday, announcing plans to expand a new store format that will provide dietitians, help people monitor chronic diseases and add community rooms that can be used for yoga classes. The drugstore chain, which quit selling tobacco several years ago, said it will open 1,500 of these so-called HealthHub stores nationally by the end of 2021.
“The ultimate goal is bring more health services into people’s communities where they can access them as part of their daily life,” executive vice president Dr. Alan Lotvin said.
CVS rival Walgreens is experimenting with primary care clinics, and insurers are expanding coverage of dietitian visits, hoping that keeping people healthy will reduce costs and keep them out of expensive hospitals.
The added convenience sounds good in theory, but these newer care options will have to earn patient trust, said Harvard researcher Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, who has studied retail clinics.
CVS Health, based in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, runs more than 9,800 stores nationally. Late last year, it added health insurance when it acquired one of the nation’s biggest insurers, Aetna, in a roughly $69 billion deal that is being reviewed by a federal judge.
Soon after announcing that deal, CVS officials started talking about plans to provide more health care help to customers. Late last year, the company started testing HealthHub stores in Houston.
Aside from visits with dietitians, these stores give customers a chance to get screened for eye problems caused by diabetes, talk to a pharmacist about a treatment plan or get help tracking their blood pressure.
The stores reduced space for seasonal merchandise to add amenities such as community rooms that can be used for free chair yoga sessions or nutrition classes.
CVS Health said it will add more of these stores to the Houston market this year and expand to Atlanta, the Philadelphia area and Tampa.
Separately, Walgreens will start adding primary care clinics next to some of its stores in the Houston area through a partnership with VillageMD. It’s also testing clinics in Kansas City that focus on older patients through a deal with the insurer Humana.
Walgreens, which still sells tobacco, wants to create what its leaders call “health care neighborhoods” with its stores and improve access to primary care.