Why Pharmacies are Taking a New Business Model Prescription

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This is the age of the empowered consumer. Smart technology, social media, and economic circumstances have given consumers more power over the market. Brands that want to thrive are now expected to create relevant, personalized experiences- or else empowered consumers take their business elsewhere.

The healthcare industry has been affected by this shift of power. Pharmaceutical giant CVS’ acquisition of major healthcare insurer Aetna provides one case study of how empowered consumerism is impacting the industry.

A Shifting Model of Healthcare Services

Before CVS bought Aetna, healthcare services were already being redefined. One example of this is the rise of urgent care clinics (and related decline in emergency room growth.) As of 2018, urgent care clinics managed about 89 million patient visits annually. The industry is expected to grow by 5.8 percent within a year. Patients are increasingly seeking ways to receive medical services outside of hospitals or traditional medical offices.

When CVS bought Aetna, it joined in the trend of redefining medical service offerings by making it possible for pharmacy services to begin to blend with the kinds of health management services the insurer advocates. Walgreens and United Healthcare are partnering with each other to pilot similar types of services.

One New Clinic-Pharmacy Model

Walgreens and United Healthcare have partnered to pilot a model where Walgreens Pharmacies are conveniently built next to United Healthcare’s urgent care unit MedExpress locations. Approximately 400 of 8,100 Walgreens in the U.S. already have retail clinics where consumers can have their blood pressure checked or receive other basic healthcare services at most times of day (and sometimes at night.)

Urgent care centers typically have board-certified doctors on staff and can perform more diagnostic testing, like x-rays, than pharmacy clinics have been able to. Doctors on staff can also prescribe medications. Pharmacies located next to urgent care providers centralize the medical experience for consumers.

The Future of New Healthcare Models

CVS is planning to create a similar model. Instead of simply locating urgent care centers next to pharmacies, however, CVS is expected to pilot models of pharmacies that have clinics inside of them. Since CVS and Aetna offer different services to consumers, their efforts aim to create relevant, personalized, and centralized healthcare experiences instead of competing for business.

Some of the plans suggested by CVS leadership include offering wellness services like:

  • Eye and foot exams for people with diseases like diabetes
  • Airflow testing for people with conditions like asthma
  • Wellness classes like yoga
  • Nutritionist consultations
  • Blood draws
  • Consultations with nurse practitioners
  • Health concierges who can make recommendations

Additions like these in CVS pharmacies would change the way primary care, chronic illness management, urgent care, and other medical services are delivered to patients. As the importance of patient experience increases, new models like these are likely to grow.

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