CVS dives deeper into medical services, offering up virtual visits through Teladoc

Aug. 8, 2018

The drugstore chain plans to make video visits available nationwide by the end of the year through a partnership with Teladoc Health, CVS’ latest pivot away from retail and toward healthcare services. CVS already offers virtual appointments, branded as MinuteClinic Video Visits, in nine states and the District of Columbia.

MinuteClinics treat people with minor illness and injuries like coughs and rashes. These walk-in locations are a way to keep customers coming into CVS’ stores as more shoppers buy everyday items on Amazon. Making it possible to visit a MinuteClinic without actually walking into one may hamper that, but it could help CVS reach more people.

With virtual visits, known in the industry as telehealth or telemedicine, CVS can reach people who may not be able to visit one of its roughly 1,100 locations. MinuteClinics are a key part of CVS’ $69 billion acquisition of health insurer Aetna.

People seeking virtual care can access it through the CVS Pharmacy app. They’ll be connected with one of Teladoc’s providers rather than a MinuteClinic. CVS says patients will receive the same level of care because providers are expected to assess and treat patients based on its guidelines.

Visits will cost $59, less expensive than most services offered in stores, according to a list of prices. They cannot initially be covered under insurance, though CVS said that will change in the coming months.

The nationwide rollout comes after four years of experimentation. CVS first tested telehealth with pilots in California and Texas in 2014. It started tests with Teladoc, American Well, and Doctor on Demand the following year.

Rival Walgreens unveiled a telehealth platform last month called “Find Care Now.” It connects people with providers offering virtual visits, including nearby hospital systems and urgent care centers. The cost varies by provider and service, though a video chat with a doctor through NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital starts at $99, according to Walgreens’ website.

The drugstore chains are searching for ways to connect with consumers as they brace for Amazon’s entry into the space. After nearly a year of speculation, Amazon entered the pharmacy industry this summer with its $1 billion acquisition of PillPack.

CNBC has the full story

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