CVS Health on Thursday announced the launch of CVS Health Virtual Primary Care, a digital platform aimed at providing patients access to health services on demand, either in a retail or community-based setting, at home, or virtually.
For years, CVS has been working to enter the primary care space. In 2018, the company acquired Aetna, making it the first major health care company to be able to combine drugstores, insurance, and pharmacy-benefit management.
Then, in November 2021, CVS Health CEO Karen Lynch announced the company was looking to hire primary care doctors to develop physician-staffed primary care clinics, a move that Lynch said would be a priority for the company in 2022.
"We really believe that we need to kind of push into primary care, so we can influence the overall cost of care," Lynch said. "And by doing that, we think that we can have better engagement, help customers better navigate and obviously have higher quality, lower cost of care."
In December 2021, CVS unveiled its plan to expand and integrate its primary care business into its health insurance and pharmacy benefit plans, saying it intended to acquire more physician practices and clinics as it continues to grow its primary care service offerings.
At the time, Alan Lotvin, CVS' EVP and president for pharmacy services, said the expansion would result in a "nationally-scaled next generation primary care model" that will include more "physician-led primary care centers with integrated virtual and home assets."
CVS' new digital platform, CVS Health Virtual Primary Care, will be available to eligible Aetna members on Jan. 1, 2023 and CVS Caremark members in the second quarter of 2023.
According to CVS, the new platform will allow patients to access primary care, on-demand care, chronic condition management, and mental health services virtually. If necessary, patients will also be able to see an in-network provider in-person, including CVS' MinuteClinics. Primary care providers on the platform can also help patients identify other in-network specialists or health providers if needed, CVS said.
The platform will include a member-selected physician-led care team which could be comprised of nurse practitioners, RNs, and licensed vocational nurses, all of whom will be available through the platform. The care team can also consult with CVS pharmacists for medication management whenever necessary and use interoperable EHRs to help patients transition between virtual and in-person care as well as share clinical data to other providers, CVS said.
"By offering a connected care team where providers can easily exchange clinical information on behalf of their patients, and an extensive local footprint for in-person care follow-up, we're able to provide consistent, high-quality care," said Creagh Milford, VP of enterprise virtual care at CVS Health. "This model shifts from reactive to proactive care that can ultimately improve outcomes and help lower costs." (CVS Health release, 5/26; Devereaux, Modern Healthcare, 5/26)
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