- CVS Health on Wednesday launched MinuteClinic Video Visits, offering 24/7 access to virtual care services for minor illnesses, injuries and other wellness needs.
- Patients initiate a video visit through the CVS Pharmacy app using their mobile device. The program uses Teladoc’s technology platform.
- The service is now available in nine states — Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, New Hampshire and Virginia — as well as the District of Columbia. Nationwide rollout is expected by the end of the year.
More care is moving to retail settings, and virtual offerings are increasingly becoming part and parcel of that experience. Last month, Rite Aid inked a letter of intent with InTouch Health to bring virtual care to remote areas. The companies also plan to offer the services at alternative care sites, such as Rite Aid pharmacies.
Walgreens is also offering telehealth services through a partnership with NewYork-Presybterian. The virtual care option — part of NYP's OnDemand digital health services — is available at self-service kiosks at select Duane Reed drugstores in New York City and through the Walgreens website. The retail pharmacy chain also recently launched a digital marketplace with 17 big-name providers to connect its mobile and online visitors to its clinics and healthcare services, as well as providers in communities across the U.S.
Payers are getting in on the act as well. Last month, Anthem announced a collaboration with Samsung to bring members 24/7 telehealth services, including video chats with providers.
CVS said early tests of the telehealth service showed strong consumer support. It claimed 95% of patients who opted for a virtual visit were highly satisfied with the care they received, and an equal share were satisfied with the convenience and overall experience. While those numbers can be taken with a grain of salt, there is reason to believe patients want more telehealth options. An American Well survey from earlier this year found that nearly 80% of respondents were willing to see their doctor via video and 20% would switch primary care providers to get access to such services.
Patients currently pay the $59 fee for a MinuteClinic Video Visit out of pocket, but the company said insurance coverage will be added in coming months.
The move comes as CVS is attempting to acquire Aetna for $69 billion. Shareholders for both companies have approved the deal between the pharmacy chain and payer. If approved by regulators, the merger would create an entity with annual revenues of roughly $245 billion. The Department of Justice is still scrutinizing the proposed merger and earlier this year requested more information on the bid.
On Wednesday, the American Medical Association urged DOJ to reject the deal, citing an AMA analysis showing it could undermine competition in many healthcare markets, at the expense of patients.
Among other things, the analysis said the merger would increase market concentration in 30 of 34 Medicare Part D regional markets, most likely leading to higher premiums. The analysis pointed to impact on the highly concentrated pharmacy benefit management services market, where both firms already have a stake.