CVS Health and its corporate partner Aetna have launched initiatives to take on some of the most daunting challenges in healthcare.
CVS Health has published a report on six top 2020 healthcare trends and how the pharmacy giant is helping to address them.
Pharmacies are well-positioned to rise to healthcare challenges. For example, through retail clinics and screening programs, pharmacies can make a significant contribution to healthcare access in underserved communities.
1. Digital revolution in healthcare takes hold
Healthcare organizations have embraced data-driven medicine such as the National Institutes of Health All of Us program, which is gathering health-related data on more than 1 million Americans.
Managing a wealth of healthcare data will be a major challenge this year and for years to come.
"No one company will invent all of the breakthrough technologies. Part of our role at CVS Health, given the breadth of our involvement in various areas of healthcare, will be to stitch the information from all of these sources into experiences that are truly meaningful and impactful," Firdaus Bhathena, chief digital officer at CVS Health, says in the report.
For example, CVS Health is harnessing consumer data from several sources within the company, including health insurance, pharmacies, and retail clinics. CVS Health and healthcare insurer Aetna merged in 2018.
"One application has been to use machine learning to calculate the 'next best action' for a healthcare consumer—crunching all of this data and advising when it might be good to get an examination or take a new tactic in managing a chronic condition," the report says.
2. On cusp of advances in kidney care
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is one of the most challenging health conditions in the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that about one in seven adult Americans have some form of CKD.
To help address CKD, CVS Health launched CVS Kidney Care in 2018. Primary elements of the program include CKD identification, patient engagement, and patient education to slow disease progression.
"In 2019, CVS Kidney Care began applying information already available through CVS Health and Aetna to identify people who may not yet know they have kidney disease. Predictive algorithms sort through pharmacy and medical claims, lab data, and demographics to identify individuals at the highest risk for kidney failure. A similar strategy identifies patients who already have a CKD diagnosis, but may be progressing quickly to kidney failure," the report says.
3. Countering epidemic of loneliness
Loneliness is impacting a wide range of Americans. A recent AARP survey found one out of three adults 45 years and older considers themselves as lonely. Last year, CVS Health's Path to Better Health Study showed significant levels of loneliness among millennials, with 48% saying they had no desire to be social outside their homes.
"A lack of connection can have a corrosive effect on health. Loneliness and social isolation are risk factors for depression, impaired cognitive performance, progressive dementia, compromised immune systems, cardiovascular disease and hypertension," the report says.
Aetna has implemented a Social Isolation Index to gauge Medicare patients' risk for social isolation. "The Index, which is based on claims data and multidimensional information related to social determinants of health, helps to identify high-risk Medicare beneficiaries. They will get proactive outreach from specially trained consultants within Aetna's Resources for Living program," the report says.
In 2019, CVS Health, the CVS Health Foundation, and the Aetna Foundation launched Building Healthier Communities, which includes efforts to address loneliness. "It works with local partners at the neighborhood level to promote, among other goals, affordable transportation and new walkable destinations—both keys to a connected community, especially for seniors with limited mobility," the report says.
4. Closing community care gaps and tackling social determinants of health
The most affluent 1% of Americans live on average more than 10 years longer than the least affluent 1%, according to Massachusetts Institute of Technology research.
"Many families in this country are still under- or uninsured and struggle to find the care they need. Without regular access to care, the likelihood of chronic conditions and complications from those conditions increases," Eileen Boone, CVS Health senior vice president of corporate social responsibility and philanthropy, says in the report.
"Recognizing that eight out of 10 Americans live within 10 miles of a CVS Pharmacy location, CVS Health operates Project Health, an annual campaign offering free screenings that can reach deep into underserved communities. … Since it began 13 years ago, Project Health has delivered more than $127 million in free health care services to 1.6 million Americans," the report says.
5. Boosting drug cost transparency
The rising prices of prescription drugs is one of the hottest flashpoints in healthcare. CVS Health is advocating for patients to know more about their out-of-pockets expenses when physicians prescribe new medications.
CVS Caremark, the pharmacy benefit management subsidiary of CVS Health, has developed Real-Time Benefits program to provide more transparency about drug costs.
"These tools can be accessed online, by mobile app, at the pharmacy counter or, most critically, at the time of prescribing. In fact, the program is accessible via the electronic health records for physicians of CVS Caremark members, allowing a physician to check within seconds if the drug they are prescribing is covered for their patient. The database also identifies up to five lower-cost, clinically appropriate alternatives or therapeutically equivalent generics," the report says.
6. Monitoring the self-care market
Americans are spending more than ever on self-care such as fitness and nutrition, and dietary supplements are now used by about three-quarters of Americans, the report says.
CVS Health is helping consumers gauge the safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements. "In 2019, CVS Pharmacy rolled out its Tested to Be Trusted program, a first-in-the-industry initiative that requires supplements sold by the company in stores and online—some 1,400 products—to undergo third-party testing, either with U.S. Pharmacopeia, National Safety Foundation or another independent third-party testing company approved by CVS," The report says.
Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care editor at HealthLeaders.
Pharmacies are well-positioned to help address many healthcare challenges.
CVS Health is harnessing consumer data to advise patients in areas such as when to get an examination and new tactics to manage chronic conditions.
The CVS Kidney Care program includes chronic kidney disease identification, patient engagement, and patient education to slow disease progression.