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CVS’ Merlo talks about ‘bold, disruptive’ plans

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LOS ANGELES — CVS Health, by combining with Aetna Inc., will lead the broad change needed in American health care, CVS president and chief executive officer Larry Merlo said at a forum here.

“What we propose is bold, disruptive and truly unique,” Merlo said last month at Town Hall Los Angeles. “It’s also achievable, with the right engagement at the community level.”

Melding the capabilities of two leading health care organizations “will establish an innovative health care model that is easier to use, less expensive and puts people at the center of their care,” he added.

Merlo said the merged entity will localize, simplify and enhance care.

Pointing out that nearly 70% of Americans live within three miles of a CVS Pharmacy, he also observed that people can see a nurse practitioner at one of CVS’ 1,100 MinuteClinics. And the company now has optical centers inside selected stores. “We can help fill care gaps between visits to the doctor, serving as a complement to traditional primary care,” Merlo said.

Addressing the current system’s fragmentation, he said that one in five people on Medicare who leave the hospital are readmitted, and half of those readmissions — and all the associated costs and pain — can be avoided. Preventable readmissions cost the health care system some $25 billion a year — money that could go to infrastructure, education and job training, he noted.

“By extending our new health care model more broadly in the marketplace, patients will benefit from earlier interventions and better connected care, leading to improved health outcomes,” he said. “Think again about that senior leaving the hospital, knowing that the care plan prescribed by her doctor is being seamlessly coordinated by CVS and her caregiver.”

Integrating Aetna’s medical information and analytics with CVS Health’s pharmacy data and its 10,000 community sites “can enable more effective treatment of the whole patient,” he said.

He vowed that CVS-Aetna will improve care, in large part through chronic disease management. It will have a much more complete picture of a person’s whole health as well as a community presence. Diabetes care, for instance, will not be offered in an ad hoc or fragmented way, he emphasized, “but seamlessly with patients, their doctors and the many other players” it takes to coordinate care.


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