Justin Steinman on What’s Happening at the New CVS

Justin Steinman

Justin Steinman

If you live just about anywhere in the continental United States, you can probably walk from your home to a CVS store. And if you’ve been a CVS customer for more than a year or two, you have already noticed very big changes taking place. A few years ago, you might have noticed that you could get a flu shot right in your CVS pharmacy. And chances are that may have surprised you. You might have also noticed that your store had opened a walk-in clinic where you could ask questions, receive a range of care, and enjoy the ability to postpone going to your primary care-providing physician.

Those changes, which were so new only a few years ago, are no longer surprising. They have become part of what we have come to expect from our local CVS pharmacies. Let’s hear from former CVS executive Justin Steinman.

In many ways, Steinman is exactly what healthcare needs. He challenges norms and has a curiosity driven nature. He doesn’t just look at a particular situation and diagnose the problem. He is already game-planning the top three ways to solve it. In short, he is exactly who you want at the helm when defining and managing new complex initiatives that are expected to scale. Justin started his healthcare career at GE Medical and then transitioned to Aetna just prior to their merger with CVS. Back then, not many saw health plans and retail pharmacy merging on their bingo card. Their customer value proposition changed overnight. The mother of all integrations was on, and Justin was right in the thick of it.

How “Bricks and Clicks” Combine to Create a Unified Customer Care Experience

Vertical integration was one of the key issues that CVS addressed. CVS was essentially in the retail business. There were so many CVS stores and at a certain point, management realized that selling magazines and greeting cards did not support a long-term growth strategy.

It was at that point that a new kind of thinking arose, when CVS decided to reposition itself not as a retailer, but as healthcare – “the front door to healthcare in America,” Steinman explains.

And another kind of integration was taking place too, around the issue of payments.

“If you’re going to spend that dollar on preventative care in the store,” Justin says, “but you’re going to save $1.50 on the insurance medical costs, it makes a lot of sense to do the deal.”

Among the first integration products CVS launched were the MinuteClinics that opened in CVS locations across the country. The planning for them was backed up with market research that showed that a lot of CVS customers were people who were making less than $50,000 a year. And for those people, the cost of care was proving to be a significant inhibitor to getting care. The strategy behind the MinuteClinics was to offer a care option that costs about $100 to consumers – far less than the cost of at least $200 to them at an emergency room. The value and convenience would speak to consumers. And the proposition was just as appealing to employers and the health plans they used, which can result in a cost of at least $4,000 for every visit to an emergency room.

Justin explains, “So we had an idea. You could walk into a MinuteClinic, show them your Aetna card, and there would be no cost to you for that visit at all. Your employer is going to pay for it, at no absolutely no out of pocket cost to you. Steinman and his planning team modeled that would save an employer something on the order of about 13 cents per member per month. So Aetna added this feature to its program, which covered about four million members. If you do the math, you can see the savings and the value.

From Physical to Virtual and Back Again

The Aetna/CVS cooperation has resulted in a vision of unified care. “We at CVS liked to say only CVS has the ability to go from virtual to physical to virtual and back again,” says Justin. “We talked a lot about the omni-channel approach to meeting members where they are. Another product that we built is now called Virtual Primary Care. And this is a new plan design that we built.”

Part of the thinking was to overcome consumer objections to telemedicine. The greatest of those objections, Justin states, is that consumers feel they never see the same doctor twice. “And people who say that are right,” he says. “To date, telemedicine has been episodic. You sprain your ankle, you use Teladoc and  you see someone online. Same with a sore throat. Only every time you call, you see someone else! Maybe the doctors you see are actually moonlighters, or they might not be the people who file your paperwork. And maybe your company is paying for it, but there are a million reasons why you’re not going to like it.”

One solution the CVS/Aetna team developed was to move data from the primary care practice to the cloud – not only data from the primary care doctor, but nurse practitioners so everyone can access it.

A Reality-Based Way to Research the Needed Changes

The Aetna/CVS team took notebooks and visited their primary care providers. They tracked what needed to be done physically and made notes about what could be done virtually at a wellness telemedicine visit.

“In truth, there are certain things at a wellness visit that you need done physically, face to face,” Justin explains. “You have your reflexes checked. The caregiver feels your lymph nodes to see if they are normal. Or someone takes your blood. But our experiments showed that roughly 85% of what happens can be done virtually, including the entire conversation with the primary care physician.” And they concluded that all but 15% of those care experiences could be performed via telemedicine, and even more at MediClinics like those that CVS was planning to install in stores,

Before COVID-19, CVS was on track to build 1,000 of those health hubs around the country. And now, post-COVID-19, CVS is planning to install about 5000 by year 2025. So now all of a sudden, the customer gets a better care experience. And employers or insurance providers will save money and keep people healthier too.

It  really goes from physical to virtual, and back again. It is seamlessly omni-channel, all working because there is a vertically integrated set of assets.

Aetna Advice: One More Way Aetna and CVS Will Stay a Step Ahead of End-Users’ Care Needs

Aetna Advice is a series of algorithms that uses data analytics to determine the next best action for customers’ health. In this way, CVS hopes to become a leading center for early interventions for diabetes and other conditions.

And the whole system will be automated. If users have Apple Watches, for example, they will receive reminders and alerts there. Of course, text messaging and email will be part of the communications.

When CVS customers are in the stores and picking up prescriptions, the plan is for them to receive messages that might say, “You haven’t had a flu shot for two years. Why not go get one right now?” Timely and on point, they nudge you to do the preventative at a time when it is most convenient.

Another real life example is when your physician prescribes an MRI, that information will enter the CVS system and consumers will get a text message that says, “Would you like to get an MRI at a center that’s nearby? It’s covered, and it will cost you $500, vs. $3,000 at your local hospital. Click here and schedule it right now?”

On CVS’s Current Involvement in Covid-19 Testing

CVS is currently cooperating with a number of businesses to perform COVID-19 tests on their employees. One such partner is a major airline, which is having pilots tested at some of their major hubs. There is also a contract with a major television studio, which is testing production people, actors, and even catering workers.

According to Justin, one of the major stock exchanges is another client. It is giving Covid-19 screening tests to traders on the floor, to maintenance people in their facilities – to everyone on site. Another partner is a medical device company that sends reps into operating rooms.

What’s the common thread across those segments? It is how densely people work together. It’s a vertical integration, not a typical segmentation.

It all is evolving into a white-glove service that combines the resources of CVS and Aetna.

About Justin Steinman

As CMO of Definitive Healthcare (www.go.definitivehc.com), Justin is responsible for the strategy, development, and execution of all aspects of marketing for the company, including product marketing, demand generation, corporate marketing, public relations, and corporate communications.

Prior to joining Definitive Healthcare, Justin served as the vice president of commercial product management at Aetna, a CVS Health company. Previously, he served as Chief Marketing Officer at GE Healthcare Digital, and in a variety of sales & marketing roles at Novell.

Justin holds undergraduate degrees in English and History from Dartmouth College, and an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management.

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You can read the full interview with Justin in Kevin’s book, It Takes a Village – Click here to get it on Amazon.