How Should Primary Care Providers Prepare for the CVS/Aetna Merger?

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CVS Health and Aetna rang in the New Year with a massive $69 billion merger, a healthcare deal that is being recognized as the largest of its kind in history, surpassing Express Scripts’ $29 billion acquisition of Medco in 2012. It’s also being heralded as the merger that might change healthcare as we know it, particularly for primary care providers.
The CVS/Aetna deal attempts to address a need in American healthcare: 60 percent of Americans don’t have a primary care doctor. The reasons why so many Americans lack a PCP vary, but 20 million people in the US are uninsured, and many find it difficult to schedule a time to meet with a doctor of their preference when they fall ill. Many speculate that in response to these needs, the two healthcare firms are combining forces to create a unique service that quarterbacks care in the same way that primary care physicians have traditionally done, with greater convenience for the patient.
Aetna CEO Mark Bertollini says that this merger will emphasize the customer experience:

“ …we’re supporting interaction with the medical community, preparing people for appropriate compliance, preparing them for their visits, setting up appointments, eliminating prior ops, doing all those other sorts of things to help navigate that system for [patients]. So the relationship becomes one of trust. And what I want to use over and over and over again because it makes it so much simpler”

The CVS/Aetna deal points to a larger trend: the rise of patient consumerism, in which patients’ desire for access and convenience are prioritized in the delivery of healthcare. It also underscores the need for primary care physicians to continue to adapt to meet the demands of patients who have experienced innovation in other industries and expect the same from healthcare.
“While the CVS/Aetna merger might signal a change in the healthcare landscape, it likely won’t replace the benefits of the traditional primary care physician-patient relationship,” says Chris Phillips, RN, BSN, and manager of Privia’s Nurse Care Management Line. Statistics indicate that 50 percent of American adults have at least one chronic condition such as cancer, heart disease, or asthma. “Those patients will still want and need access to a dedicated provider who knows their individual history and is familiar with their medical charts.” Some patients will prioritize access and convenience over a deeper relationship with a PCP, however. That’s why PCPs have an opportunity to respond by providing patients with greater access and convenience, so patients aren’t lost to other configurations of care.
The bottom line? Though primary care physicians have faced challenges when it comes to modernizing their practices, it is in their best interests  to continue to embrace the latest in technology and population health to make healthcare more enjoyable for the consumer/patient of modern times.
Providers, particularly independent physicians, may find it difficult to modernize their practices without help. Privia Medical Group is a national, high-performance, multi-specialty group supported by advanced technology and team-based care that helps doctors better manage the health of their populations. Learn more and contact us here.

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