PHARMACY

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

BY Antoinette Alexander

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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PHARMACY

Consumers want more control over their health, wellness

BY Alaric DeArment

A new survey by Wolters Kluwer Health indicated that a large majority of consumers think it’s a good thing that more individuals are taking a larger and more active role in their own health care.

This should come as no surprise, as recent years have seen tremendous growth in things like electronic personal health records, mobile apps and use of social media. It also ties in with trends in the devolution of health care to the consumer level, such as retail clinics.

Rite Aid’s slogan is "With Us, It’s Personal," and a major component of that chain’s Wellness store concept is giving customers the means to take charge of their own health and wellness. One company’s slogan contains a grain of truth common to the entire industry, however, as pharmacy retailers have become central players in the personalization of health care by offering services like mobile apps and retail clinics, not to mention a wide variety of products that customers can use to take care of themselves.

Meanwhile, another study, by Royal Philips Electronics, shows that more than 10% of consumers not only see mobile health apps as convenient tools, but also credit those apps with saving their lives. And social media have become a common way for consumers to share information about their conditions with others and also explore possible health problems, as a survey released last month by GE Healthcare shows that online discussions of health and wellness can lead to better behaviors among adults.

None of this, of course, takes physicians, nurses or pharmacists out of the equation. At the end of the day, it’s healthcare professionals who have the power to diagnose, prescribe and dispense. But it does mean that people are taking charge of their own health care and treating their health as a customer experience, and that’s what the personalization of health care is all about.

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CVS/pharmacy to acquire 19 Medicine Chest pharmacy locations in Texas

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. and SULPHUR SPRINGS, Texas — CVS/pharmacy and Medicine Chest Pharmacy announced on Friday that CVS will acquire 19 Medicine Chest drug stores in Texas during the last weekend of December.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

CVS/pharmacy will operate nine of the acquired locations and relocate 10 other Medicine Chest pharmacies into nearby existing CVS/pharmacy locations. Medicine Chest will continue to operate its remaining 10 locations.

"CVS/pharmacy is committed to helping people on their path to better health in our more than 550 Texas locations. By expanding our presence in the state through the acquisition of Medicine Chest’s high-quality pharmacies, we will offer our customers greater convenience and access to our services. We look forward to working with our new colleagues and taking care of our new customers’ pharmacy needs," stated Laura Underwood, area VP for CVS/pharmacy.    

"Medicine Chest Pharmacy is proud to have served the Texas community since 1976, and it has been an honor to take care of our customers’ pharmacy needs over the years," added Chad Michel, COO of Medicine Chest Pharmacy. "As we continue to focus on our long-term care pharmacies and our remaining retail locations, we believe CVS/pharmacy is the right partner that will maintain the same level of quality care in those markets we have divested. CVS has worked very hard to make a smooth transition for our customers and employees. Prescription and insurance information will be available at CVS seamlessly, with no interruption of services."  

Medicine Chest historically operated 26 retail stores and three long-term care pharmacies all in Texas. The company will continue to own and operate seven retail pharmacies located in Clarksville, Mt Vernon, Quitman, Tyler, Orange and Bryan, Texas. The company — through its three long-term care pharmacies located in Houston, Sulphur Springs and Bryan — will continue to provide service to long-term care facilities, including nursing homes and assisted living facilities throughout Texas.

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