2017 was a big year for high-profile acquisitions: Amazon and Whole Foods, Apple and Shazam, Disney and 21st Century Fox, and in mid-December CVS announced its acquisition of Aetna. There was a flurry of coverage on how this will affect CVS customers, Aetna patients, and the future of healthcare. For starters, having Aetna’s 22 million patients fill prescriptions at brick-and-mortar CVS locations could help drive more retail revenue at CVS storefronts. But more interestingly, CVS drugstores also have the potential to turn into local “health hubs”where customers fill prescriptions, receive medical exams and counseling, and those recently discharged from the hospital can get help on understanding their medications. Having one-stop all-service clinics “could help reduce healthcare costs by delivering medical services in a convenient place and reducing patients’ needs for pricey hospital visits.”
All Roads Lead to Amazon
As reported in Vox, Leemore Dafny of Harvard Business School explains that “your retail pharmacy wants to be a bigger piece of your health care and is buying greater access to you by purchasing an insurer.” But, it’s hard not to speculate that any retail related acquisition these days points back to one thing, and one thing only: Amazon is coming. Reports that Amazon hired a new manager to help them break into the pharmacy market, combined with news in October that they acquired wholesale pharmacy licenses in 12 states, has many viewing the Aetna acquisition as purely a defensive move to better position against Amazon’s looming threat.
The Patient Experience
In a recent Harvard Business Review article, John Toussaint explores the deeper significance of insurers merging with clinics: it takes “the care process to the patient,” and by focusing “physician and ancillary resources on preventing unnecessary hospital care, which drives 70% or more of medical cost, the total cost of care and therefore premium cost can be lowered.” This shift is set to challenge hospitals. These new mergers are creating organizations that are “looking to improve value by delivering lower-cost, higher-quality service to large populations of patients,” and Toussaint sees the CVS-Aetna merger as “only the tip of the iceberg,” and highlights the necessary shifts that will be needed in management and leadership behavior if traditional care delivery and hospitals expect to survive.