If it seems like every company is looking to expand to in-home healthcare, it’s because they are. What started with Amazon acquiring One Medical has continued with Walgreens purchasing both VillageMD and CareCentrix, and now CVS buying Signify Health. So, what gives?
At home healthcare can be divided into three categories: hospice care, post-acute care, and primary care. Historically Signify Health has primarily been hospice and pre-hospice care whereas CareCentrix focused on post-acute care, meaning surgery recovery and long term hospitalization recovery. But the push from CVS, Amazon, and Walgreens is actually more toward primary care, like VillageMD.
Why is at-home care booming now?
There’s a massively growing group of people who choose not to receive care in the hospital, and that’s driven by Covid. You used to go in as a patient, but now you go in and get Covid and be in-patient? That’s a problem. Even with U.S. President Biden announcing the pandemic is “over,” doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and all healthcare providers are more than aware that this is far from true. But at-home healthcare will not be Covid related. It will be physical therapy, annual check-ups, mental health care, and other non-emergency visits.
Beyond Covid, home care is booming because of convenience. Prior to the pandemic, the most telehealth you could get were video calls with therapists and maybe prescription refills with doctors and psychiatrists. Now, telehealth covers much more than those services, so the next step is actually going to your home. At-home care used to be for the uber-wealthy who either wanted more privacy or couldn’t be bothered to leave their home and go to a doctor’s office. But now, insurances will provide more coverage for home healthcare, making it more affordable for people, especially those in metropolitan areas.
Great, but how will at-home healthcare work for consumers?
There may be costs associated with how much travel the doctor has to do, but CVS will function like Best Buy. Best Buy ships out your order from the closest stocked store so that it gets to you the fastest. CVS already can send prescriptions between locations nationwide, so they wouldn’t struggle with sending out doctors in a similar fashion. While not every location will have doctors on-site, they may also collaborate with third-party providers to get you the fastest, closest care.
Most consumers would have a question mark about their doctor being from CVS, but there’s generally a really high trust between CVS and the consumer because you go there for your Covid vaccine, your flu vaccine, and your medications. CVS and Walgreens know one thing about themselves: their retail experience could be innovated, but they’ve already done a great job with pharmacy and established consumer trust. It shouldn’t be hard for them to continue with more in-depth care. Chances are, they’ll launch a brand called something along the lines of “CVS Plus” which will have a smaller retail space but will contain doctors.
CVS will be a stand-out home healthcare company in comparison to other providers. They’ve already got all your information because everyone buys their drugs there, so they have all your health information and your insurance, simplifying the process in comparison to researching doctors, asking friends and family for recommendations, and entering the long waitlist for a simple check up. Because CVS is the largest pharmacy chain in the U.S., it will be the most accessible. We can expect to see more locations pop up for both CVS and Walgreens, but it will take time.
Who will benefit the most from home healthcare?
Frankly, everyone involved will benefit from home healthcare. Doctors, nurses, patients, insurances, and of course, the pharmacies will have more simplified access to care. In terms of specifics, freshly graduated medical students, traveling nurses, and specialty care patients will be most at ease. Most new doctors immediately join hospitals, which are high-stress environments that involve long hours and menial support. Granted, this is what doctors are trained for, but it’s not the best option for many people.
A doctor who is just starting out would greatly benefit from working with CVS. It will give them flexibility, allow them to build their own book of business, and reduce the complexities of a private practice. Similarly, travel nurses who switch from hospital to hospital, receive low pay, and have limited upward mobility will be able reduce such stressors. Given that 90% of nurses are women and 80% of primary care comes from a nurse, at-home healthcare will likely reduce the gender pay gap and patient understanding of what nurses versus doctors provide.
Finally, specialty care patients ranging from infants to cancer patients to hospice patients will receive better access. Frequent hospital visits are expensive in every regard, and if your insurer gives more allowance for home healthcare and you get to reduce stress by being in your own environment, and potentially decrease costs by 40%.
The move from CVS, Walgreens, and Amazon to at-home care is a strong step in more accessible healthcare and will innovate the industry. In a short time, your next annual check up will be in your living room.