Welcome to Editor's Corner. Here, the editors of Physicians Practice will share their thoughts on the happenings in healthcare and look at the industry from a broader viewpoint.
A few months before my son was born, I went to CVS and got a tetanus shot.
My primary-care physician had left his medical group and I needed to get the shot before the baby arrived. Not wanting to go through the process of finding a primary-care physician for a single shot, I decided CVS would suffice. And it did. I got the shot and didn't have to worry about getting vaccinated the day my son came into my life (something I had to do for my niece).
CVS isn't your doctor, nor do they pretend to be your doctor. In fact, the physician assistant who performed the shot on me asked if I wanted to keep records of the shot for my (non-existent) doctor. I said I didn't have one, but I'd keep it anyway, once I did find a new one.
In due time though, patients may never actually need a primary-care doctor. At least, that's what CVS and Aetna are trying to do and if you’re a physician in a practice, it should scare you.
In case you aren't following the news (and for that I can't entirely blame you), this past week CVS announced it was purchasing health insurer Aetna for a whopping $69 billion. This is a major business transaction in healthcare and many sides will feel the impact.
The deal will certainly fall under heavy regulatory scrutiny. Just like Aetna's last attempt with Humana, it is far from a sure thing. Even under a more business friendly administration, $69 billion mergers don't just get to happen without some kind of antitrust examination. But if it does happen, it's a chilling combination for physician practices and hospitals alike — especially ones in the business of primary care.
Here are the words of Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini at the announcement (I apologize, it's a lot, but I think it's important):
The real important part here is that we need to understand that almost 60 percent of Americans don't have a regular doctor. A lot of people can't get in to see the doctor they want to see. So I view the offering — I think it's less about what the store looks like and more about the offering, and the experience the customer gets is really about a patient-centered medical home model, where 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 them.