CVS plans to offer a new nationwide telemedicine service in its continuing efforts to revamp the company and compete with potential online pharmacy options like Amazon.
Someday soon you may walk into your local CVS Pharmacy with your prescription in one hand and your yoga mat in the other.
That’s because CVS Health is testing a new concept store format as the company plans to shift more of its floor space to health care services.
The drug store chain, one of America’s largest retailers, is debuting three HealthHUB locations in Houston as it heads toward a future with less space devoted to retail goods like seasonal items.
Part of the concept store is closed-off space for classes, such as yoga, as well as expanded space for health treatments.
More than 20 percent of the floor space at the concept stores is devoted to health care services, including wellness products and personalized care. Pharmacists in the HealthHUB will also make regular calls and in-person consultations with certain patients to help them stay on track with their prescription drug plans.
It’s all part of CVS CEO Larry Merlo’s plan to reduce the company’s reliance on traditional retail as digital competition undermines sales of everyday items. Merlo told USA TODAY in November that he plans to shift more retail space toward health purposes.
The move also comes as CVS integrates newly acquired insurer Aetna and braces for a potential fight with Amazon for pharmacy customers.
The company pledged to use the Aetna deal to pursue lower health care costs and said this move to help patients become healthier is part of that plan.
“By bringing those services to help them better manage their chronic diseases, we can really increase their awareness, their engagement, the experience with those services and ultimately help them manage their own diseases and be healthier, which in turn lowers overall health care costs,” CVS chief transformation officer Alan Lotvin said in an interview.
One of the key differences at the HealthHUB locations is the addition of new space for CVS MinuteClinic nurse practitioners, now capable of additional services like phlebotomy, diabetic screening and sleep apnea assessment.
Traditional retail sales at CVS are increasingly less important to the company’s finances. In the first nine months of 2018, pharmacy prescription sales were more than three times retail product sales. And retail sales were up only 1.5 percent during that period.
CVS has already invested in developing a network of MinuteClinic locations inside about 1 in 9 of its stores to provide diagnosis and treatment of basic illnesses.
Lotvin said CVS would “never imagine” adding a MinuteClinic in all of its about 9,600 stores, but the plan is to continue expanding the model to more locations.
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The HealthHUB locations have added hundreds of new health products, including new durable medical equipment and asthma care products.
CVS Pharmacy President Kevin Hourican said the company used a software tool to decide which items to stop selling. For example, the retailer will sell fewer seasonal items, which have limited windows of popularity.
The concept stores also employ what CVS is calling a “care concierge,” a special greeter charged with providing advice to customers on how to get the most out of their visit.
Since a soft launch of the Houston locations in December, more than 95 percent of customers have accepted help from the care concierge, according to CVS.
The stores also have a licensed dietician available to provide one-on-one guidance and host classes.
The HealthHUB locations have closed-off space for group events like health seminars and yoga classes.
It’s too soon, Hourican said, to say how quickly and how many other locations could adopt the concept store format.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.
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