February 1, 2019

Brace yourself: CVS, Walgreens want to sink their teeth into dentistry

Daily Briefing

    CVS and Walgreens are now offering teeth cleaning and straightening services at select locations as part of a push to provide a more diverse range of health services to customers, CNBC reports.

    Infographic: 6 ways your pharmacist can reduce costs and improve quality

    What they're doing

    CVS, through a partnership with SmileDirectClub, is piloting a dental program that allows customers to be fitted for invisible braces at six of its drugstore locations. The pilot locations offer customers 3-D scans of their teeth to create the teeth straightening kits. SmileDirectClub already sells kits directly to consumers online.

    Walgreens in December opened an Aspen Dental clinic in one of its Florida stores and plans to open another dental clinic in a different location this year. According to Walgreens CMO Pat Carroll, the dental clinic offers services like cleanings and crowns.

    Dental services part of pharmacies' plans to expand reach

    While the pilots are relatively small for chains with thousands of stores, CNBC reports they show how drugstores are trying to diversify to get customers in the door.

    Brian Tanquilut, a health care analyst for Jefferies, said customers are increasingly shopping online for products and services, and retail chains must evolve to stay competitive. "It all boils down to trying to diversify what they're offering in the front of the store," he said.

    Both CVS and Walgreens in recent months have advanced major partnerships toward that end.

    CVS in November acquired Aetna for $70 billion with plans to turn its pharmacies into "health hubs." A spokesperson for CVS said the new programs and partnerships will "enhance the customer experience" by making "health easier and more convenient for ... customers."

    Walgreens, on the other hand, is looking to tap into the senior market, according to CNBC. Just last year, Walgreens partnered with Humana to offer senior-focused primary care clinics in two, Kansas City locations. Walgreens CMO Pat Carroll said that offering accessible dental services in stores will help the pharmacy giant attract even more seniors to its locations, especially now that more Medicare Advantage plans are offering dental coverage, CNBC reports. Traditional Medicare does not cover dental services.

    "We're ... looking at a demographic that's really using Walgreens and the services they need at our stores," Carroll said. "[Seniors are] really looking for dental services [and] as their dentist may retire, they're looking for more access" (Spitzer, Becker's Hospital Review, 1/31, LaVito/Thomas, CNBC, 1/29).

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