Prescription adherence just got a whole lot easier. Chief Digital Officer Brian Tilzer fills us in.
CVS has been a dominate force in the retail pharmacy market for some time—but could the popular retail chain become the next major player in the digital health movement? According to its Chief Digital Officer Brian Tilzer, it’s getting there.
With the success of the MinuteClinic under its belt, the major drugstore chain is now offering a number of digital tools for its pharmacy customers. However, the online tools were designed with more than customer conveniences in mind. CVS is looking to play a major part in helping its pharmacy patients better manage their chronic conditions, by arming them with everything they need to manage their medications. It’s a small step in the direction of what CVS hopes will create a much bigger picture when it comes to helping its customers manage their health.
We asked Tilzer to explain what inspired CVS to head in the direction of digital health tools, and how the company sees itself evolving in the ever-changing healthcare market:
It doesn’t seem surprising that CVS has added digital health tools to aid its pharmacy customers, with the pure saturation of mobile devices used by consumers these days. Still, these are some very specific tools offered to target medication adherence and management of chronic conditions. Why do you think CVS is in a good position to aid in this capacity? Are these not areas better managed by the customer’s primary care provider?
CVS Health has an incredible scale and reach that provides us with an opportunity to use technology and innovation to improve the health outcomes of more than 5 million customers that walk through our doors every day. We have over 7,800 retail stores nationwide and 75 percent of the population in the markets we serve lives within 3 miles of a CVS/pharmacy. Since inception, our MinuteClinic walk-in clinics have seen more than 22 million patients. There are other retail pharmacies, health clinics, mail order and specialty pharmacy services out there, but no one else can bring the trifecta of pharmacy, retail and health pieces all conveniently together, which makes CVS Health unique.
What was the inspiration to serve in this capacity? Is it the growing realization and need to develop effect strategies for preventative healthcare?
Because we serve more than 5 million customers every day, we have a huge opportunity to use technology to improve the health outcomes of our customer, by extending our services to meet them anytime, anywhere. For us, the benefits of technology aren’t just driving people back to our platforms: it’s about uncovering the most effective ways to help all people on their path to better health. Our vision is to create a “connected” health experience that makes it radically easier for people to save time and money—and stay healthy. Imagine being able to easily refill your prescriptions from your couch. To check how medicines interact with each other. Or – not too far in the future – being able to actually diagnose your child’s sore throat in the kitchen on a Saturday night, while interacting with a doctor over your device – instead of having to wait until Monday morning to bring them into the doctor’s office. There are many possible touch points throughout the customer journey. We identify these challenges as moments to engage our customers and enhance their connected health experience, both online and offline.
Granted several of the digital tools make filling and managing prescriptions easier. However, the medication reminder application is not novel; there are hundreds of medication reminder apps out there. So why create a medication reminder app? What’s the incentive for a customer to use the CVS app over another medication management app out there?
Our research shows that, collectively, non-adherence causes about $300 billion in added costs to our healthcare system every year … and what’s more, puts tens of thousands of lives at risk. The difference with CVS Health’s app compared to other apps is that we link our customers with integrated assets when, where and how they want. We made it easier for our CVS/pharmacy customers to engage with us and manage their health – whether they are at home, in the store or on the go.
And we’re seeing that this is working. Our mobile app has been downloaded 11.8M times; to put that into perspective, according to a recent report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, out of the 165,000 mobile health apps available to consumers on the market, only 36 apps account for nearly half of all downloads, while 40% of apps have fewer than 5,000 downloads. Not only are people downloading the CVS apps, but they are engaging with them. More than half of our digital prescription refills are from mobile and text enrollment for pharmacy pickup and refill are at 20 million.
Why was it important to have Apple Watch integration? Is this CVS way of dipping its toe into the potential of how it can be a part of and capitalize on the wearables market?
We want to reach our customers however they want to be reached: and increasingly, Apple Watch is one of those platforms. In our lab, we’re continuing to explore new devices and channels, like wearables, and will bring to market that which we see as the most beneficial for our customers.
A common question often emerges when we talk about motivating customers via digital health tools: do they really work? CVS is reporting that customers using the digital tools are experiencing better adherence to medications and thus management of chronic conditions reliant on those medications. So are we witnessing technology driving better outcomes here?
According to new research from CVS Health, we are already seeing the impact of our digital strategy: 10 percent more CVS/caremark members with common chronic conditions improved their medication adherence to optimal levels after enrolling online, and CVS/caremark clients could save more than $20 per registered member in unnecessary medical expenses.
What about the argument that those who do not manage their chronic conditions now certainly won’t be influenced or incentivized to manage them simply because of advent of digital applications?
We’re especially focused on medication adherence for chronic diseases. Today, half of all Americans suffer from chronic disease. That accounts for three out of every four dollars spent on health care. With digital applications, our goal is to take as much friction out of the experience as possible to make the process as easy and straightforward as possible for those managing chronic conditions.
So keeping these digital innovations in mind, what’s next on the drawing board for CVS Labs? What about Minute Clinic tools? Are we going to see similar digital developments for patients who regularly visit the clinic in the future?
Last November, we announced a new suite of digital tools—among the first out of the Digital Innovation Lab—that were developed specifically to address issues facing CVS Health customers. The tools are evidence of our ongoing commitment to integrating digital efforts across the company to provide future-looking health care solutions. The tools were specifically designed to address issues facing CVS Health customers, like forgetfulness, administrative burden and medication adherence.
The Digital Innovation Lab is our place to explore, partner, and develop – all to create cutting-edge digital services and personalized capabilities that make it easier for our customers to lead healthy lives. We’ve developed a data-driven innovation process that relies on rapid prototyping and analysis to determine which projects should be fast-tracked to development – and which need some tweaking.
We also know that some of the best ideas are already being thought up, so we’re committed to partnering with other companies and startups to explore and expand on these ideas together. That’s why we recently partnered with top accelerators MassChallenge and Rock Health to drive faster innovation and expand areas of focus for connected health solutions.
In conclusion, what is the statement CVS is trying to make with the introduction of these tools? And what should we expect to see from CVS when it comes to participating in greater issues regarding our healthcare system?
Here at CVS Health, we are driven by one purpose: to improve customer health. To facilitate a better wellness journey, we use digital innovation to deliver a seamless, connected health experience for our customers. For this reason, we’re committed to partnering with other companies and startups to explore and expand on these ideas together to bring rapid and impactful change. By combining our resources and reach with our partners’ insights and expertise, we’re confident we can impact the way our customers manage their health challenges.
Last October, we announced partnerships with digital health venture fund Rock Health and top startup accelerator MassChallenge in efforts to drive faster innovation and expand areas of focus. Through these types of partnerships, we aim to open the doors to collaborate with the most advanced and capable organizations to develop future-looking health care solutions for our 100 million customers to better manage their healthcare needs.