- CVS' pharmacy benefit manager launched a vendor benefit management service allowing its employer and insurance plan clients to offer nontraditional tools aimed at improving employee and member health.
- The program announced Tuesday will allow employers to contract and manage their relationship with third-party vendors that offer employee benefits, which could be both digital and non-digital tools.
- The first third-party vendor in the program and available for CVS Caremark members to adopt is Sleepio, a digital program aimed at improving sleep sold by Big Health.
The move fits into the broader effort by employers, payers and others to tackle social determinants of health, paying attention to nutrition, transportation and other non-traditional health measures. Digital tools like apps and wearables are at the forefront of that trend.
This is not CVS' only venture related to digital health tools for clients. Early this year, the company said its insurance arm, Aetna, will offer an app aimed at pairing the patient's medical history with the Apple Watch capabilities to help members set health goals.
Although executives say the pharmacy giant's nearly $70-billion acquisition of Aetna is complete, the companies are still facing a hurdle in implementation as a federal judge reviews their merger settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. The judge is set to hear more arguments on the matter next month.
As social factors influencing health become more of focus, payers are ramping up efforts to offer related services. And CMS is pushing these tools as well. Medicare Advantage plans, for example, now have the flexibility to cover the cost for healthy food options for some beneficiaries or carpet cleaning for those with asthma.
A report by health benefits platform Castlight underscored the trend, finding the average employer offers 14 digital health tools, either offered by a health insurance plan or a third-party vendor. Every generation is using digital health tools, though millennials are slightly more likely to use digital tools to address health problems, that report showed.
However, a recent Health Affairs study found questionable evidence on whether the efforts are working.
Despite the prevalence of digital health tools, "they have not have not yet demonstrated substantial impact on disease burden or cost in the US health care system," according to its review of U.S.-based digital health companies.