CVS joins forces with hospitals, docs

September 26, 2014 in Medical Technology

By Shefali Luthra, KHN Staff Writer

Neglected to pick up your prescription? Now, there’s a good chance your doctor will know and do something about it, thanks to a slew of new partnerships between CVS Health and various health systems. One of the most recent, which is slated to begin by early next year, will integrate the electronic medical records from MedStar Health’s 10 hospitals and 4,000 doctors – located in Washington, D.C. and Maryland — with CVS pharmacies as well as the chain’s 900 Minute Clinics located across the country.

It makes coordination easier, said Bob Gilbert, MedStar’s president of ambulatory services. When someone gets care at a pharmacy or retail clinic, it will be entered in the patient’s MedStar records for the doctor to see. If a MedStar patient receives CVS service in another state, practitioners there will still be able to see the patient’s records.

[See also: CVS Caremark to pilot ePA.]

Counting the MedStar partnership, CVS now has 41 such health-system agreements in place, with the last nine encompassing the retailers’ pharmacies. CVS hopes the other existing arrangements – which linked the systems with the Minute Clinics — will follow this course.

The move underscores a larger push by retail pharmacies to expand their role in the health care market. CVS has the most physician partnerships, but competitor Walgreens is also associated with 20 health systems and has joined accountable care organizations – the care-giving coalitions created by the health law to control costs. Even stores like Wal-Mart and grocery companies such as Safeway, which features some in-store pharmacies, are looking to bolster ties with clinics and hospitals.

“There aren’t enough primary care physicians to treat enough chronic and routine care that patients need. Ergo, the market is responding,” said Christopher Kerns, managing director for research and insights at the Advisory Board Company, a health care consulting firm.

CVS – which itself operates more than 7,600 pharmacies with more than 800 clinics – now has relationships with between 300 and 350 hospitals in addition to clinics and physician groups, according to spokeswoman Christine Cramer, adding that the exact number is hard to quantify. These collaborations extend over 24 states plus the District of Columbia.

The agreements do not have any explicit financial element. “It’s purely a clinical collaboration,” said MedStar spokeswoman Ann Nichols.

But health system partnerships can still benefit a pharmacy company like CVS.

“When it comes to chronically ill patients, there’s now incentive [for physicians] to refer them to CVS” for day-to-day disease management, Kerns said. That can give a company a new stream of customers  and drive up pharmacy sales and in-store foot traffic.

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