Committed to Health

With a growing shortage of primary care physicians and more and more people entering the health care system, convenient and affordable health care services are needed now more than ever. That’s according to CVS Health CEO Larry Merlo. Merlo sat down with Nightly Business Report’s Susie Gharib to discuss the reasons behind the company’s broadening focus on health, which recently aired on PBS stations across the country.

As the health care landscapes changes, consumers have more responsibility and accountability for their health care decisions. Merlo describes it as the “retailization of health care,” and he said CVS Health is seizing the opportunity to become a go-to place for people to get healthy.

“Despite all the changes in health care, the one thing that hasn’t changed is that the pharmacist is still the most accessible health care professional,” said Merlo. “The role of the pharmacist is evolving. They no longer are just dispensing prescriptions; they’re also providing sound advice and expert counsel. Today, they are the face of neighborhood health care and are becoming a health care concierge to some degree.”

In addition to its CVS Pharmacy stores, CVS Health also operates MinuteClinic, the fastest growing provider of retail medical clinics, with more than 900 across the U.S. The company is opening three new MinuteClinics a week because the changes in health care demand it. Added Merlo, “We see an opportunity to increase access to care, and at the same time provide that care at a lower cost.”

As CVS Health continues to drive innovation to help consumers on their path to better health, Merlo sees digital technology as the next “game-changer” for consumers. “Technology is moving very quickly, in terms of providing more devices with which people can monitor health. There are more points of access today and new platforms such as telemedicine, where patients are seen remotely. We are in the early stages of a health care environment that has the potential to be very different than what we experience today.”  

So what is one of the biggest challenges Merlo sees to continuing to innovate in the health care space? “The threat that overregulation has in terms of getting in the way of private sector innovation is concerning. I think that private industry needs to work with policy makers and regulators to ensure that innovation isn’t stymied or compromised.”