Retail pharmacy chains pursuing innovation across care continuum

Jeff Rowe
Retail pharmacy chains pursuing innovation across care continuum

One of the more interesting developments in healthcare, in recent years, has been the move by big retail companies – both traditional pharmacies like Walgreens and less traditional big box operations like Target and Walmart – into offering direct patient care of one type or another.

For example, in a recent interview in the Wall Street Journal, CVS Health CIO Stephen J. Gold said pushing innovation has been his top priority since taking the post in 2012. Some of that innovation is technological, he said, but “some of it is process, and some of it is people and culture.”  

He pointed to the launch of an innovation laboratory in Boston, where, he said, “the goal is to basically operate in a mode that mimics a startup. A mind-set of experimentation, iteration, rapid testing and failure is part of the process. This laboratory is focused on bringing new digital products and services to market.”

Another CVS is pushing innovation is by using the reams of patient data it collects, via a proprietary program it calls an “engagement engine,” to make filling and picking up prescriptions more convenient. It also helps patients adhere to their medication regimens using technologies from text messaging to geolocating.

“The data we get from patients’ prescription behaviors is key. It’s the patient’s profile, their gender, their age, any allergies they may have, any disease state. All the information that is needed to appropriately care for the patient,” he said.

As for the challenges facing innovation efforts, Gold said, “All of the business rules that reside in our systems that sit behind the mobile app are where the heavy lifting is. Business rules or requirements define your business, and are often a constraint or a description of an operation within your business.”