CVS: 6 issues to watch in 2020—and how to tackle them

Improvements to kidney care and to data stewardship are among the key trends to watch in 2020—here's how industry players can prepare for them, according to a new CVS report. 

CVS Health released its "Health Trends 2020" report Tuesday, which identifies six issues that are likely to have a significant impact on how the healthcare industry does business this year. It’s critical to be proactive, the healthcare giant says, in tracking potential shifts. 

“Navigating the way forward calls not only for the ability to read the road, but excitement about where the road leads,” according to the report. “While the coming changes will bring challenges, the health care sector is also faced with a period of profound transformation.” 

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The trends identified in the report are: 

  1. Continued evolution in kidney care 
  2. Greater consumer scrutiny on wellness products 
  3. The need for data stewardship as digital health rolls on 
  4. Pharmacies as a tool to reach underserved populations 
  5. Efforts to mitigate loneliness 
  6. Increased transparency around drug pricing 

Kidney care, for example, is common and costly—improvements in this area have also been a focus for the Trump administration. CVS’ report notes that 96% of people with mildly reduced kidney function are not aware, while 43% of people with advanced chronic kidney disease also do not know about their condition. 

Targeting members of the large population with early-stage kidney disease that don’t know they have it can be a critical way to prevent costly clinic dialysis or other treatments for more advanced disease, according to the report. 

CVS Health’s strategy is through its CVS Kidney Care program, which was launched in 2018 and focuses on early identification and targeted interventions that can slow disease progression. CVS also launched clinical trials for a home dialysis device last year. 

“Our goal is to improve health outcomes and the patient’s experience throughout the entire health journey,” said Bruce Culleton, M.D., vice president and chief medical officer of CVS Kidney Care, in the report. 

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The industry has gathered a wealth of data on patients using the latest technologies—the challenge now is how to ensure patients believe the information is being used safely and fairly, according to the report. 

Health companies should establish data stewardship guidelines to address these concerns, though progress remains limited—a recent survey of 100 hospital technology executives found the majority of their institutions had no such policy in place, according to the report. 

A data stewardship plan should both consider technological protections like cybersecurity and how to articulate to patients effectively how much data they’ll use and what they're for. 

“The challenge really lies in building the fundamental trust,” said Firdaus Bhathena, chief digital officer at CVS Health, in the report. “Trust needs to exist for people to be willing to make data about themselves available, and many of these advances depend on the availability of data.” 

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Consumers want access to more data, too, according to the report. And some of the most valuable areas for greater transparency are around drug pricing and the efficacy of wellness options. As drug costs rise, patients are better equipped to make appropriate choices about their health when they're armed with pricing information.

For example, CVS notes that 41% of patients ask their doctors about lower-cost drug options. Using the company's real-time benefits tool, 35% of eligible Caremark members were able to switch to an on-plan or cheaper medication.

Patients also want to try the latest wellness solutions and are spending more than ever on these products, but they're concerned about the effects. Healthcare organizations can help—CVS' pharmacies last year launched the Tested to Be Trusted program, which conducted third-party testing on supplements and vitamins before selling them in stores or online.

“CVS Pharmacy’s requirement of third-party testing of vitamins and supplements uniquely positions us as a trusted retailer and health partner where consumers can shop for proactive wellness solutions with confidence,” said Kevin Hourican, president of CVS Pharmacy and executive vice president of CVS Health, in the report.