CVS Caremark's reinvention of pharmacy comes amid intense changes in health care

On Thursday, analysts and CVS Caremark executives gathered in New York City to attend the company’s annual Analyst Day meeting.

CVS Caremark has come a long away from its roots as a go-getting New England-based regional player, and the pharmacy healthcare giant continues to prove the success of its unique integrated model. The role of CVS Caremark — and community pharmacy at large — in today’s healthcare system couldn’t come at a more critical time.

The reality is that the healthcare environment is rapidly changing and that change will be accelerated by healthcare reform and the 30 million newly insured Americans come 2014, as well as technological advancements, demographic shifts and changes in patient behavior. As Larry Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Caremark, noted in Thursday’s Analyst Day meeting, the healthcare industry is on track to change more in the next 10 years than it has in the past 50 years.

Since it merged five years ago, CVS and Caremark have talked about why it married these assets together under one roof, and as some may recall, back in 2009, some on Wall Street swore the sky was falling as Caremark came off a tricky selling season. There’s no doubt that times have changed — in a big way.

Today, with its multiple touchpoints, innovative flagship patient care programs and an army of more than 22,000 retail pharmacists and 1,800 nurse practitioners and physician assistants, CVS Caremark has hit its stride and is well on its way to innovating and reinventing pharmacy.

It is also important to note that CVS Caremark is working to transform primary care, a vital initiative given the primary care shortage that is plaguing the nation and projected to reach at least 50,000 by 2020. Playing a key role in its effort to transform primary care is its MinuteClinic business.

An ideal case in point — noted by Andrew Sussman, SVP and associate/chief medical officer and president of MinuteClinic, during the Analyst Day meeting — is Massachusetts. Despite having the highest number of primary care physicians per capita, wait times for primary care doctor appointments continue to rise and now stand at 45 days in 2012, up from 36 days in 2011 in the state. Patients in the state are increasingly turning to MinuteClinic locations, and Massachusetts has become one of its fast-growing MinuteClinic states, Sussman said. Furthermore, recent state legislation recognized the importance of such clinics and paved the way for an expansion of scope of services, as previously reported by Drug Store News.

MinuteClinic is not only working to further expand its scope of services into such areas as chronic disease care, wellness and injection therapies, but it also has beefed up its expansion plan. Last year, MinuteClinic revealed plans to grow to more than 1,000 clinics by 2016 by opening 100 clinics per year. Now the plan is to open 150 new clinics in 2013, which is part of a larger to grow its clinic base to more than 1,500 locations by 2017.

MinuteClinic also is working to further expand its strategic affiliations with major health systems and is developing a central nervous system for all of its integrated clinical initiatives. As Sussman told analysts, increased connectivity with electronic records, digital technology and MinuteClinic kiosks will improve quality and reduce wasteful duplication.

Clearly, CVS Caremark has come a long way over the years, and in looking at the growth framework executives outlined during the Analyst Day meeting, there is still a lot of room to grow.

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