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Peanut Butter & Jelly

There’s a reason my grocery store puts the peanut butter and jelly next to each other in the same isle.

It’s the same retail philosophy that allows me to grab parmesan cheese next to the pasta, and my liquor store sells club soda and tonic water for reasons that are equally obvious to those of us that enjoy an occasional cocktail.  Grouping products typically bought and used together is not exactly rocket science in the consumer-packaged goods world, but only recently has the concept been prevalent in the healthcare community.  There’s an MRI/Imaging facility located next to an orthopedist in a local shopping center in our town, but I still need to drive to a pharmacy to get a prescription filled, and yet to another facility across town for a blood test.

So I was intrigued – and more than a little enthused – when I recently stumbled on an NPR story about CVS Pharmacy’s new vision for healthcare, “CVS Looks To Make Its Drugstores A Destination For Health Care”[1].  In a nutshell, the company is looking to transform its retail pharmacy outlets into health centers.  As a healthcare consumer that turns beet red every time a doctor’s office asks me to complete 10 paper forms that ask the same question seven times, closes for lunch, has no evening or weekend hours, and generally couldn’t care less about my satisfaction as a “customer”, I almost literally stood and applauded while reading this line:

“The health care industry, he {Dr. Alan Lotvin, the executive leading the CVS transformation} says, is now organized for the convenience of doctors, hospitals and other providers of care. ‘I think there's an opportunity to organize around the consumer,’Lotvin says.”

CVS is hoping to provide “health care hubs” where consumers – particularly those with chronic illnesses like diabetes and asthma – can see and speak with a pharmacist, a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant, or a dietician, have their breathing or blood glucose checked or blood drawn, and even take a yoga class.  One can see this concept expanding over time to co-located imaging outlets, blood-testing services, physical therapy practices, who knows.  All I can say for sure is that I’m one healthcare consumer that’s rooting for the model’s success.

But as I replace my healthcare consumer hat with my facilities management software hat, I can envision a number of practical challenges facing CVS, and other organizations contemplating this kind of undertaking. Here at Nuvolo, we deliver facilities management software solutions to several healthcare organizations, as well as a number of retail customers, and their respective challenges and concerns are often unrelated.  The healthcare community is consumed by Joint Commission compliance, environment of care issues, complex, expensive equipment, and staffing a workforce of hard-to-find-and-retain, well-trained clinical engineers. Retailers often rely on local vendors for facilities maintenance issues, so vendor management, invoicing and accounting, SLAs and service agreement ROI, and corrective maintenance response time keep retail facilities leaders up at night. Moreover, retailers don’t view all their “operational technology” items as an overhead.  Rather, many can be revenue-generating assets.  Copy machines at Staples, coffee machines at 7-Eleven, and ordering-kiosks at a Panera Bread, all cost the organization revenue and profit when they’re down for repairs.

CVS is combining the world of retail with the world of healthcare, so the same vendors that service the refrigerators that keep the orange juice cold don’t share the same skill set as those that maintain and calibrate blood-pressure monitors, glucose meters, etc. That’s just one example of the practical challenges confronting CVS as they look to combine the worlds of retail and healthcare.

Like I said, the healthcare consumer in me is rooting hard for CVS to succeed, but the facilities management side of me knows it’s not going to be as easy as moving a few jars of parmesan cheese to the pasta isle.

[1]https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/02/21/695216345/cvs-looks-to-make-its-drugstores-a-destination-for-health-care