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CVS' new virtual primary care service inches it closer to becoming a healthcare giant

The news: CVS Health is rolling out a virtual care solution next year to eligible Aetna and Caremark members. The service will allow consumers to get care at a retail clinic, virtually, or in their home.

The offering, CVS Health Virtual Primary Care, is being sold to Aetna fully-insured, self-insured plan sponsors, as well as clients of Caremark, CVS’ pharmacy benefit manager. Eligible members can start using the service next year.

How we got here: CVS’ telehealth offerings currently include e-clinic and video visit services for general medical care and some chronic disease management. Aetna has offered virtual care solutions for its members for the past decade.

  • Last year, CVS and its Aetna health plan arm launched their first co-branded virtual primary care solution (powered by Teladoc) to self-funded employers nationwide.
  • This service promises free copays for all telehealth visits and select in-person ones for Aetna members, once deductibles are kicked in.

More on the new offering: CVS Health Virtual Primary Care gives Aetna’s and Caremark’s customers another option to roll out to their members—approximately 110 million in total.

  • Members will be able to receive a variety of services virtually, including primary care, chronic condition management, and mental health support. Members can then choose to have an in-person visit at an in-network provider, if needed.
  • CVS’ press release is light on details regarding the program’s at-home services, though president and CEO Karen Lynch hinted at such expansion during the company’s 2021 investor day in December.
  • Patients’ data will be stored on a dedicated EHR platform, which can be accessed by CVS care team providers and outside physicians.

The bigger picture: This is yet another move that beefs up CVS’ hybrid care delivery strategy as the retail giant evolves into a healthcare giant.

By intertwining its retail, insurance, and pharmacy divisions, CVS wants more consumers using its healthcare services.

  • Even though CVS plans to close the doors on nearly 10% of its US locations throughout the next three years, the company wants to become a front door for care by converting its remaining stores to primary care-like offices.
  • Consumers are growing more comfortable with CVS as a healthcare destination due to the pandemic. The company administered more than 32 million COVID-19 tests and over 59 million COVID-19 vaccines in 2021.
  • Plus, CVS went from supporting 10,000 virtual mental health visits in 2019 to 10 million in 2021.