CVS Health’s Chief Digital Officer on Navigating Two Revolutions

By Scott Kirsner |  February 23, 2015

When Brian Tilzer joined CVS Health two years ago as Chief Digital Officer, his take was that the company needed to successfully navigate two revolutions: omni-channel retail and what he terms “the digital enablement of healthcare.”

Tilzer says that it wouldn’t be possible without increasing investment and attracting new talent to the $139 billion company. CVS Health operates nearly 8,000 retail locations under the CVS Pharmacy and Longs Drugs banners, as well as running a mail order pharmacy, MinuteClinic non-urgent care clinics, and a pharmacy benefit manager, CVS/caremark.

“We’ve tripled our investment in digital, multi-channel e-commerce,” says Tilzer. He’s also setting up new sites away from CVS’ Rhode Island headquarters campus to “attract additional talent and increase our connectivity” to potential partners in the healthcare industry. The first example of that will open later this winter in Boston, the CVS Health Digital Innovation Lab.

Tilzer talked with InnoLead about his priorities, and shared several slides. (A handful are below, but you can find the full presentation in our Resource Center in downloadable form.)

Skate where the puck’s going. Tilzer says that since arriving, he has put a big emphasis on developing mobile apps for CVS’ various divisions. The main pharmacy app, for instance, lets users scan codes on pill bottles and order refills, or send photos to be printed. “We now have top-rated apps on every [mobile] platform, for every business unit,” Tilzer says.

Invest in tests. “We’re piloting some telemedicine services in our MinuteClinic business, so that we may be able to provide a wider range of services,” Tilzer says, with a staffer in the clinic getting guidance and advice via video from a healthcare professional located off-site. To identify new technologies and set up those kinds of pilot tests, Tilzer says, “We created a rapid prototyping team. As we find exciting young technologies, their job is to explore whether they can be meaningful, and deploy them in live environments to collect data.”

Lab stores. But rolling out new technologies — and then yanking them out if they don’t work as expected — can be disruptive to a traditional CVS location. So CVS is building three “lab stores” that will open this year, in Boston, New York, and Silicon Valley. They’re designed to be constantly changing — and to appeal to a tech-savvy, “early adopter” customer base in those locales.

Use tech to solve big problems. Tilzer says he’s focused on using digital communication channels to address issues like “medication non-adherence” — patients not taking their medication as often as they’re supposed to, or not taking it at all. “We estimate that the cost of non-adherence to the healthcare system is about $300 billion.” So Tilzer’s team has been creating text messaging and “push notification” systems that “will remind you when you have a refill due.” (That refill revenue is also a big part of CVS’ livelihood.) Tilzer says he also hopes that technology will help to eliminate CVS’ famously-long paper receipts — at least for some customers. “For the customer who doesn’t want the receipt, we want to give them the digital experience,” Tilzer says, sending purchase details and coupons directly to their mobile device.

Get close to talent; seek new connections. “Boston is a city that is located at the intersection of healthcare innovation and digital innovation. We believe that opening up a location there will help us attract additional talent, and increase our connectivity with health insurers, startups, hospitals, and the biopharma sector.” Initially, the Digital Innovation Lab there will house about 100 people, Tilzer says, who will focus on “building customer-centric experiences in healthcare.”

Bricks + clicks + swipes. With his focus on the in-store experience, the web, and mobile, Tilzer says he is “bringing the physical and digital together. We have the chance to invent things that don’t exist yet, and that’s exciting.”

Several of Tilzer’s strategy slides are below…You’ll find the full presentation in our Resource Center in downloadable form.