CVS-branded hospitals? What's next for company after Signify acquisition

Health system innovation leaders say CVS Health's completed $8 billion acquisition of Signify Health makes sense in an industry that is moving toward the home — and that the company is far from done expanding.

"The concept will continue to evolve and cement itself into the ecosystem of what patients and consumers expect from the healthcare sector," said Kathy Azeez-Narain, chief digital officer of Newport Beach, Calif.-based Hoag. "From providing care that is more value-based to helping patients recover as they are discharged from procedures, the need for this type of care will continue to grow."

The key, she said, is having well-designed home health programs that can prove the right outcomes are being achieved.

Upon closing the deal March 29, CVS and Signify said they intended to work to lower costs and improve patient care, engagement and access, with a focus on Medicare Advantage customers. Signify has more than 10,000 clinicians across all 50 states who spend more than twice as long with patients as in-office primary care providers, the company said.

CVS, which is valued at more than $95 billion, added to a business that already includes payer Aetna, the largest pharmacy benefit manager in CVS Caremark, more than 1,100 MinuteClinics, and clinical trials. The company also said it will finalize its $10.6 billion acquisition of Oak Street Health, a primary care chain treating Medicare Advantage patients, in the first half of this year.

"This is like the Apple model," said Kiran Avancha, PhD, chief innovation officer of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based HonorHealth. "Once you get into the Apple ecosystem, you're being bounced off from one service to the other service through an easy handoff."

Dr. Avancha, who started his career as a retail pharmacist, said he never could have imagined CVS growing into the behemoth it has become. But it makes sense. After CVS accumulated so much information on patients over the years — from the pharmacy to its insurance-related acquisitions — it realized that "data is the new oil," he said.

Signify has its own data-driven population health and 340B prescription referral platform it says has saved Medicare more than $500 million.

And Dr. Avancha doesn't think CVS is done. "There's nothing out of the purview of these giants anymore," he said. "What else is remaining for them? Acquisition of hospitals?"

He said he could see a day when there are CVS-branded hospitals or the company has exclusive network agreements with health systems.

Michelle Conger, chief strategy officer of Peoria, Ill.-based OSF HealthCare and CEO of OSF OnCall Digital Health, said her health system has already been offering this kind of care for quite some time, pointing to its hospital-at-home program.

"Healthcare providers have a strong historical relationship with their patients and communities, but they need to all focus on creating an easily accessible, high-quality and affordable new care model, regardless of what is happening with new entrants to healthcare," she said.

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