Improving Health Outcomes by Increasing Access to Lower Cost Health Care

Dr. Troy Brennan serves as CVS Health’s Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer. Here, he discusses how CVS Health is simultaneously helping to address population health challenges and rising health care costs.

Given the challenges of affordability and access in the health care system, CVS Health is working diligently to activate our full suite of assets to deliver better health at a lower cost in communities across America. Key to these efforts is bringing affordable, high-quality care closer to home to the people who need it most – namely those patients managing chronic diseases, those who are especially fragile, and those who are transitioning from the hospital to the home or long-term care settings.

Not only do we believe there is a tremendous opportunity to improve care and quality of life for these patients, but we also see great potential to address some of the largest drivers of health care costs. For example, nearly 30 percent of hospital readmissions are avoidable,i and these preventable readmissions cost the health system billions of dollars each year – an estimated $17 billion for Medicare alone.ii Similarly, about one quarter of emergency room (ER) visits are not necessary,iii resulting in an estimated $38 billion in wasted spending.iv Ensuring patients have access to convenient care outside of the hospital and between doctor visits can help improve their health outcomes and reduce costly and unnecessary health care system utilization.

Our efforts focus on three aims:

Improving the Management of Chronic Disease

Patients with chronic diseases often take multiple medications to manage their conditions. Staying on track can be difficult, but taking medications as prescribed is critical to help prevent conditions from worsening. This is why we employ multiple strategies to help our patients remain adherent, including a variety of digital tools as well as face-to-face and in-app counseling. Newly simplified drug labels and our ScriptPath Prescription Schedule help patients keep prescription information and dosing instructions all in one place. MinuteClinic also offers a range of screening and health services, with programs and services to monitor chronic disease both remotely and on-site with qualified health care providers.

Helping Vulnerable Populations Get The Care They Need

For fragile patients, it is important that we meet them where they are by bringing care closer to home. These patients – just five percent of the population – account for more than half of health care costs, at more than $50,000 annually per patient.v Our CVS Pharmacy and MinuteClinic locations provide accessible care sites in 10,000 communities nationwide. Additional offerings, including Omnicare, which brings pharmacy services to long-term care and post-acute facilities, and Coram infusion services, also deliver support and treatment closer to patients.

Improving Care Transitions and Increasing Interoperability

For those patients transitioning out of hospital care, data show that readmission rates could be cut in half if patients have a complete review of their medications after discharge to help them better manage their care at home. This is where our pharmacists and MinuteClinic practitioners can help – serving as counselors and working with patients’ primary care providers and specialists to help coordinate care as part of an integrated medical home. Our partnership with Epic helps enable interoperability and collaboration among patients’ care teams, identifying gaps in care and improving transitions.

Collectively, these efforts are improving outcomes and making it easier for patients with complex medical needs access affordable, coordinated health care.

For more information on how CVS Health is working to expand access to more affordable and effective health care, check out our Cost of Care information center and the CVS Health Impact Dashboard. To stay informed about the latest updates and innovations from CVS Health, register for content alerts and our bi-weekly health care newsletter.

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i  Health Affairs. “Many Emergency Department Visits Could Be Managed At Urgent Care Centers And Retail Clinics.” September 2010. https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/pdf/10.1377/hlthaff.2009.0748

ii  Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. “Statistical Brief #172.” April 2014.http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb172-Conditions-Readmissions-Payer.pdf

iii  Health Affairs. “Proportion of hospital readmissions deemed avoidable: a systematic review.” April 2011. https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/pdf/10.1377/hlthaff.2009.0748

iv  New England Health Institute. “A Matter of Urgency: Reducing Emergency Department Overuse.” March 2010. https://www.nehi.net/writable/publication_files/file/nehi_ed_overuse_issue_brief_032610finaledits.pdf

v  Source: Department of Health and Human Services, 2012.