NEW YORK — CVS Pharmacy has entered a new arena by adding audio and optical services to its list of in-store offerings. The retailer has opened seven hearing and five optical centers store-within-stores in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area, with plans to expand to 50 locations by the end of 2017, Morgan Diaz, senior director, health services division at CVS Health, told Drug Store News.
“This is really exciting,” Diaz (pictured) told DSN. “And this will be [included] with our new store format as well.”
Diaz added audio and optical services will not carry a large store footprint, with square footage akin to its MinuteClinics. These centers are housed adjacent to pharmacies.
“It really allows us to have a nice health quadrant in the back of the store,” she said. “It’s really nice as part of our commitment to care.”
As for the reasoning behind audio centers, Diaz pointed out that 48 million Americans suffer from hearing loss, with 30 million of these people under the age of 65. However, only 20% do something to alleviate the problem. “We really wanted to ask those people how can we help and how can we differentiate in the space,” she said. “We learned that they were looking for two things: access and price.”
CVS has audiologists in-store at its audio centers five days a week that conduct a complete hearing loss assessment to understand the patient’s needs and then help them with their needs to regain sound, such as hearing aids, Diaz explained. She added that hearing loss is not simply a condition, but also affects quality of life.
“We’ve seen people who have [hearing] loss often suffer from a quality-of-life decline, which can be both physical and mental,” she said, adding hearing loss can come from a person’s vocation, in addition to more known problems, such as blasting music for long periods of time.
She added that audiology technology has become advanced, with a variety of solutions now performed via Bluetooth. For example, “as you walk into different rooms, we can program the hearing aid so it automatically adjusts to the noise setting to help amplify the sound for you in the room you’re in. And this technology is available at an affordable price point compared to other options out there,” noted Diaz.
Zeroing in on optical, approximately three-quarters of Americans have some sort of vision correction need, which presents a huge marketplace, Diaz told DSN. She acknowledged there are many places for people to take care of their eye care needs, so CVS made sure to stand out from the competition.
“We looked at how we can help and how we can differentiate ourselves in this industry,” she said. “We spent a lot of time with patients, and they asked us for a few things. One was access. ‘I really want to see my doctor at the time of day and day of the week I really need them,’ was a big thing we heard. Whether they have something in their eye, they have an emergency or just a routine eye check, they were having trouble seeing an eye doctor, with some waiting as much as 30 days to six months. We really wanted to make it convenient and just let people walk in. We have eye doctor coverage five days a week [at our optical centers].”
Diaz continued CVS has a total eye health solution that’s digital, explaining the eyes are a “gateway to your overall health.” “You can look into someone’s eyes and see the onset of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. We build a comprehensive health solution through digital equipment that helps create a more precise prescription at the end.”
Of course, eye wear is another service the optical center provides, with 600 different frames available throughout the store.
Audio and optical centers are one element of CVS’ “next evolution of the customer experience,” the company presented on April 19 in New York City. To read more about the other changes CVS is making throughout the front store, click here.