Are you one of the nearly 80% of Americans concerned about accessing quality health care? Learn how CVS Health is working to change that.

Joy Schumacher felt like she was getting nowhere managing her diabetes.

“The doctor I always went to always gave me a really hard time,” says the 66-year-old from Elgin, Illinois. “We never worked on how to solve it.”

In need of a change, she discovered Oak Street Health, a company owned by CVS Health® that specializes in primary care for older adults. There, her new care team discovered a 99% blockage in her heart’s main artery, prompting a stent procedure. But Joy’s team didn’t stop there.

When her provider noticed signs of depression, Joy was connected to an on-staff behavioral health specialist who helped her incorporate positive lifestyle changes.

“I was impressed the first time I came in because they really listen to you,” she says of her new physical and mental lease on life. “I wouldn’t be sitting here if it wasn’t for them.”

However, it’s not just older adults like Joy who lack access to reliable primary care. Nearly 80% of Americans are concerned about accessing quality health care when they need it, according to a 2022 poll from the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Women, Black and Hispanic adults and those with lower incomes were even more likely to worry about accessing care.

The same poll found just 12% of adults think health care in general is handled extremely or very well in the United States. Even fewer think the same about health care and community support for older adults.

That’s why CVS Health has invested — through its recent acquisitions of Oak Street Health and home-based care provider Signify Health — in increasing access to primary care, especially for older adults.

“Enhancing our value-based offerings is core to our strategy as we continue to redefine how people access and experience health care that is more affordable, convenient and connected,” said Karen Lynch, President and CEO, CVS Health.

Improved access

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed a myriad of health care inequities that disproportionately impact older adults and other underserved communities, but it also heightened awareness of more convenient and accessible health care options like telehealth and virtual care. Today, more than two-thirds of Americans support requiring the government and private insurance plans to cover telehealth services, according to the AP/NORC poll.

The increasing demand for digital innovation and better post-pandemic health care created a massive shift in how that care is now delivered, whether it’s virtually, in-person or as a combination of both, says Dr. Sree Chaguturu, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, CVS Health.

“Having these multiple channels allows us to have a better connection to our primary care team, and get care when we need it, and how we want it,” he says.

CVS Health Virtual Primary Care, for example, gives members of certain health care plans access to primary care, mental health services and 24/7 on-demand care virtually.

In addition, the company’s MinuteClinic® retail health clinics offer 24/7 virtual on-demand visits to treat chronic conditions as well as common illnesses and injuries, as well as in-person services at over 1,000 locations nationwide. Digital health records provide continuity of care.

“Retail health plays such an important role in delivering care,” says Dr. Creagh Milford, Senior Vice President of Retail Health, CVS Health. “MinuteClinic performs most of the primary care activities or services that a primary care doctor would perform in the community.”

A strong foundation

While virtual visits increase access to care, they are meant to amplify, but not replace, the work of primary care providers, Sree explains.

“When we think about primary care, it is the foundation of how we deliver health care in this country,” he adds. “It’s that trusted relationship that helps you navigate the complexity of the American health care system.”

Yet for each dollar spent in the American health care system, only about 5-to-10 cents are spent on primary care, Sree says. Value-based care offered by CVS Health and other providers aims to increase the focus on primary care with the promise of improving quality of care and lowering costs for hospitalizations, unnecessary procedures and ER visits.

“What’s exciting is this continued investment into primary care to see how we can get it from where it is today, which is broken and on life support, to something that’s vital, and is central to improving health care in America,” he adds. “We know that when you increase primary care access, good things happen.”

Expanded care

In addition to its virtual care offerings, the CVS Health acquisitions of Medicare-focused providers Oak Street Health and Signify Health promise to expand the company’s ability to provide care where, when and how consumers want it.

Oak Street Health, for example, employs about 600 primary care providers and has more than 180 medical centers across 21 states. Over 50% of its senior patients have a housing, food or isolation risk factor that impacts their access to quality care.

The acquisition of Signify Health, meanwhile, increases access to care for older adults and others who are medically underserved by bringing clinicians into the home to assess medical conditions and social determinants of health, and to help close care gaps.

“At its core, Signify Health helps individuals, providers and health plans understand a patient’s health risk,” says Sree. Its network of over 10,000 clinicians in all 50 states spend an average of 2.5 times longer with a patient during home visits than an average visit with a primary care provider.

“It’s a really exciting time, Sree adds. It’s very different than how care has traditionally been provided, and we’re excited to bring these innovations to the American health care system.”