A Chain Confirms an Important Point about DME Pharmacies
Large chains are making forays into providing "DME pharmacy-like" services, but they ultimately underscore the value of a local, community pharmacy.
- By David Kopf
- Dec 01, 2020
By now, you likely heard
CVS’s plans to transform many
of its locations into what it has
dubbed HealthHUBs, when it
first announced the plan in July
2019. Essentially, the locations
are sort of a mix of a pharmacy,
a clinic, and a DME provider.
A customer can get treatment for common
illnesses, meet with nurse practitioners, physician
assistants, licensed practical nurses and pharmacists,
and pick up DME items.
Yep, in addition to the sorts of retail DME items
you can typically find at a chain pharmacy, the
HealthHUBs are also supporting patients with
obstructive sleep apnea and diabetes, as well
as other chronic conditions. Obviously, those first
two items are market sweet spots when it comes
to providing DME.
The chain pharmacy’s goal is to create 1,500
locations by the end of 2021. The company rolled
out 50 HealthHUBs in 2019, and its plan was to cut
the ribbon on 600 HealthHUBs this year.
The initiative was launched after CVS and
Aetna announced their plans for a merger at
the end of 2017. Fast forward to this August,
and Aetna announced a plan that would let
its members access appointments at its parent
company’s HealthHUB locations with no copay
and get discounts on items at those CVS
Now, for a community pharmacy that supplies
DME, that can sound threatening. Here we have
a large retail giant with locations all over the
country that has recently acquired a major insurance
provider. And these HealthHUBs are offering
supplies for two heavily used DME categories that
are funded both through private payer insurance
as well as Medicare and other public payer
sources. I think most people would get a little
shiver down the spine from that.
And those concerns seem to be justified – at
least when it comes to the Aetna part of the
HealthHUB equation. We’ve all heard tales about
patient steering, and according to a September
survey from the National Community Pharmacists
Association, 79 percent of community pharmacists
complained that patients’ prescriptions
were transferred to another pharmacy in the last
six months without their patients’ knowledge or
consent. That’s upsetting stuff.
However, I don’t think it should define the
HealthHUBs. What I mean by that is, if anything,
the move to establish those locations is a confirmation
of the local DME pharmacy and community
pharmacy’s role in their local marketplace.
These pharmacies are the hub for their
communities’ health. They are the source for not
only scripts but so much more, and the local
community and healthcare partners should be
aware of it. A key way to do that is by providing
a broad range of products and meeting the
marketplace and payers’ policy and procedure
expectations. Check out our feature on accreditation
(page 4) and pain management (page
12) to get ideas on both of those subjects.
The competition might feel stiff to local and
community pharmacies, but it’s also telling them
they have the best market position.
This article originally appeared in the DME Pharmacy December 2020 issue of HME Business.
About the Author
David Kopf is the Publisher HME Business, DME Pharmacy and Mobility Management magazines. He was Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy from 2008 to 2023. Follow him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/dkopf/ and on Twitter at @postacutenews.