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CVS Health announced plans to build a digital network of social care providers in hopes of connecting the most at-risk members of its newly acquired Aetna health plans to cost-saving social services, per MedCity News.
The platform, dubbed Destination: Health, will be developed in partnership with New York-based nonprofit Unite Us, with plans to roll out later this year to a subset of Medicaid-eligible Aetna members in Kentucky, Florida, and Louisiana.
Here’s what it means: CVS-Aetna is doubling down on its commitment to social determinants of health (SDOH) to help improve patient outcomes and cut costs.
- Destination: Health expands on CVS-Aetna’s $100 million "Building Healthier Communities" initiative.SDOH refers to the nonclinical, social factors — such as access to fresh produce, housing, and social integration — that affect an individual’s health outcomes, which CVS claims determines "approximately 60% of a person’s life expectancy". The company has also invested over $40 million this year toward the rehabilitation and construction of over 1,600 affordable housing units across six states. The company’s Unite Us-developed social care platform should aid in the process of deciding which community organizations to provide with funding as information on member usage rates and satisfaction pour in.
- High costs associated with chronic disease management are likely the impetus behind CVS-Aetna’s interest in SDOH solutions. The cost of care for an individual with three or four chronic illnesses is over 500% greater than individuals without a chronic illness, and 90% of the US’ $3.3 trillion yearly healthcare costs are spent on individuals with chronic ailments. Chronic illness is also more prevalent among impoverished individuals, like those set to initially receive access to CVS’ social care platform: Low-income individuals in the US suffer from higher levels of physical limitation, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other chronic conditions, perHealth Affairs.
- And CVS isn’t alone in its pursuit of nonclinical solutions to chronic health problems. SDOH has become a buzzword in the past year as CVS-Aetna and other big-name payers like UnitedHealthcare and Kaiser Permanente look to reduce costs of chronic care management by intervening in the social causes fueling negative health outcomes. Care providers are taking action, too: Earlier this year, Cleveland’s MetroHealth announced it would spend $60 million to build 250 affordable housing units and a center for community programs on or near its hospital’s main campus.
The bigger picture: CVS-Aetna’s physical footprint could make its social service interventions more impactful than competitors’.
CVS-Aetna can leverage its more than 10,000 physical locations to build connective tissue between its health plan members and community care providers. Last month, we touched on CVS’ plans to remodel 1,500 existing stores as HealthHubs, which are more dedicated to medical devices and services than traditional CVS locations.
The company also claims it serviced more than 42 million people at its Minute Clinics — 24/7 walk-in clinics where individuals can receive care for minor injuries and illnesses, as well as access routine screenings, physicals, and women’s health services.
It’s not difficult to imagine that one day a CVS-Aetna member facing housing or food precarity could meet with a clinical case worker after picking up their script a CVS store, receiving critical guidance on the local services available to keep them healthy and off the streets and keep the company’s costs in check.
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