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CVS makes bigger push into telehealth

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Pilots under way with three connected care technology providers

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WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Health has stepped up efforts to provide telehealth services through pilots with a trio of telemedicine technology companies.

CVS said Wednesday that it’s working with American Well, Doctor On Demand and Teladoc to explore how direct-to-consumer telehealth providers, retail pharmacy and retail clinic providers can collaborate to improve patient care.

Connected care solutions being piloted by CVS include enabling telehealth access to physicians via CVS Health digital properties, as well as using telehealth technology to allow MinuteClinic providers to consult with doctors to expand the scope of care. MinuteClinic also will continue to provide telehealth care to patients in CVS/pharmacy stores and explore serving as a site for in-person exams to facilitate telehealth medical visits.

CVS noted that these efforts signal an expansion of its telehealth strategy. Last week, the company reported that in a telehealth pilot at MinuteClinic locations in California and Texas last year, 95% of more than 1,700 patients surveyed were highly satisfied with the quality and convenience of the care they received. The findings were published online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

“During our initial phase of exploration of telehealth in our store-based clinics, we learned that we could deliver excellent quality care and that patients were extremely satisfied with the care provided,” explained MinuteClinic president Andrew Sussman, who’s also executive vice president and associate chief medical officer at CVS Health. “As we examine additional ways to utilize telehealth to improve and expand patient care, we have the opportunity to partner with telehealth organizations in the care of patients at home. In doing so, CVS Health will add value for patients, clients and health plans by improving access to low-cost quality care.”

Brian Tilzer, senior vice president and chief digital officer at CVS Health, added that the telehealth pilots reflect the company’s commitment to explore ways that digital technology can improve the health care experience.

“A key pillar of our strategy is forging the right partnerships within the industry,” Tilzer stated. “We recognize that some of the best ideas are already being developed, so we’re committed to partnering with other companies to explore and expand on these ideas together.”

American Well, Doctor On Demand and Teladoc cited the level of health care access and convenience that their technologies can offer consumers in the pharmacy and retail clinic settings.

“Consumers are choosing telehealth because it is a convenient and effective way to receive care,” Jason Gorevic, chief executive officer of Teladoc, said in a statement. “We are excited to partner with CVS Health to increase the ways in which its customers can access high-quality and affordable care,” he added. Teladoc delivers on-demand health care 24/7 via mobile devices, the Internet, video and phone, with over 12.5 million members connecting to its network of more than 1,500 physicians and behavioral health professionals. The company said Teladoc physicians will perform more than 525,000 telehealth visits this year.

Doctor On Demand provides video visits with physicians, psychologists and lactation consultants via smartphones, tablets and computers. Patients download the Doctor On Demand app or go to doctorondemand.com, provide a list of their symptoms and get instantly connected for a video visit.

“We all know how hard it is to get fast treatment for common but acute medical issues,” stated Doctor On Demand co-founder and CEO Adam Jackson. “Working with CVS Health gives us an opportunity to care for the millions of Americans that trust CVS Health with their health and wellness needs.”

American Well’s consumer service, Amwell, connects people with doctors, dietitians and psychotherapists for video visits via smartphone, tablet, kiosk, phone or desktop. “We are delighted that CVS Health has joined the roster of top health plans, employers, and hospitals that trust American Well for their telehealth services,” American Well CEO Ido Schoenberg commented. “Together, we can offer consumers far more convenient access to affordable, quality care in the community and at home.”

Sussman added that with more consumers purchasing health insurance and a dearth of primary care doctors in many areas of the country, telehealth technology provides a way to broaden the reach of existing health care services.

“With the increased demand for patient care anticipated in future years as a result of the expansion of coverage through the Affordable Care Act, the primary care physician shortage, aging of the population and epidemic of chronic disease,” he stated, “telehealth gives us the opportunity to offer high-quality care to an expanded group of patients in a variety of convenient and cost-effective locations.”


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