Another week, another major digital healthcare initiative from a big drugstore chain.
Beginning in eight states and the District of Columbia but expanding nationwide by the end of the year, CVS is rolling out telehealth for acute care conditions, which are the more common treatments patients seek for minor, non-emergency healthcare issues in a walk-in clinic.
CVS Health, which operates 9,700 drugstores and 1,100 walk-in MinuteClinic clinics nationwide, will use telehealth health services from telehealth provider Teladoc Health to offer digital doctor visits in Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Virginia and Washington D.C.
The cost of a telehealth visit is $59, and telehealth sessions can be accessed through the CVS iOS and Google app, CVS says. “Through this new telehealth offering, patients now have an additional option for seeking care that is even more convenient for them,” says CVS Health chief medical officer and executive vice president Troyen Brennan.
It took CVS time to develop a substantial telehealth initiative. The chain retailer says it has been studying telehealth “in recent years,” but wanted to get it right. During the initial phase of testing, a CVS Health study found that 95% of patients who opted to receive a telehealth visit were highly satisfied with the quality of care they received. In the same study, 95% patients also were satisfied with the convenience of using the telehealth service and the overall telehealth experience. “Those results led the company to develop the expanded virtual care offering being launched today,” CVS says.
During a video visit, a provider will assess the patient’s condition and determine the appropriate course of treatment, CVS says. For patients who require a prescription as part of their treatment plan, the provider will submit the prescription to the patient’s preferred pharmacy. If it is determined the patient should be seen in person for follow-up care or testing, the provider will recommend that the patient visit a healthcare provider.
The launch of a national telehealth program is the second major digital and mobile health initiative from CVS in the past three months. In June, CVS Pharmacy, the retail pharmacy division of CVS Health, added additional delivery options for its stores and mobile app. CVS Pharmacy customers nationally can now opt to have their prescriptions delivered to their home, rather than going to the store to pick them up. CVS also rolled out same-day prescription delivery to Boston, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. in addition to New York.
CVS also is acquiring Aetna for about $67.5 billion and absorbing about $10 billion in Aetna’s debt. The deal combines the largest U.S. drugstore chain with the third-biggest health insurer, rolling Aetna’s health insurance business in with CVS’s drug plans and retail operations. The deal was approved by both companies’ shareholders in March. The deal, which is still moving through a review by regulators, is expected to close in the back half of the year.
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