While the business strategy makes sense, the experience and impact of the new CVS HealthHUB locations could represent its biggest contribution to the industry’s continued transformation.

The launch of three new CVS HealthHUB pilot locations in the Houston market represents an exciting step for the health-centric retail brand. After the completion of its giant acquisition of Aetna at the end of last year, investors and analysts have to be thrilled at the business proposition. Capture new and incremental consumer traffic. Pay itself for a visit as opposed to insurance cutting a check to a traditional health care provider. Drive pharmacy business to deepen the opportunity for future prescription volume—especially for those with chronic illnesses. There’s even something exciting about the simplest of retail opportunities here: driving market basket across all CVS categories as people spend more time in-store.

While each of these potential business benefits are compelling, what’s most intriguing is the ability for this new offering to align with what consumers really want. More individualized, human experiences that they can access and engage with on their own terms.


Exterior shot of a new CVS HealthHUB


In speaking with nearly 18,000 consumers across the US as part of our Humanizing Brand Experience research (new report coming April 2019), the changing needs of the health care consumer could not have been clearer. Cemented in this latest round of data collection was the concept that traditional functional attributes like quality are not nearly as game-changing as they once were. Instead, they are being replaced by emotional elements of the experience that are just as important to influencing a consumer’s future choices. Specifically, three concepts are at the top of a consumer’s wish list:

  • Individualization: Makes me feel like the top priority when I’m getting care
  • Well-being: Gives me a stress-free health care experience
  • Freedom: Makes me feel like I have options when it comes to my health care

Putting the potential of the CVS HealthHUB experience through this lens, a quick spin through the environment amplifies each of these ideas (virtually at least as we have not yet visited the space). The immediacy of access to care reduces the stress that comes with having to wait long periods of time to get appointments. The staffing of HealthHUBs with increasingly-experienced nurse practitioners and physicians enables CVS to better tailor the engagement to someone’s specific needs on the fly. The “on every street corner” presence of the CVS infrastructure also provides a feeling that options are plentiful and that the consumer is in control. Similarly, a more tailored list of services organized by how a consumer might engage with care—rather than how CVS organizes their own services—further elevates this feeling.


Interior shot of CVS HealthHUB care concierge


Overall, the HealthHUB appears to be meaningfully aligned to what the modern health care consumer wants from their experience. We realize that many traditional providers do not have the physical footprint to make this sort of bet, but the mindset of building something truly aligned to what a consumer wants is well within your purview. From where we stand, this is the part of the melding of retail and health care that we find so interesting. As a retailer, CVS innately looks at the world through a ‘fail forward fast’ mentality that is often the antithesis of the traditional health care mindset. But, what if you tried it? What if that next facility was not based on what’s always been done but instead leverages what consumers say they want from you—a more human brand experience.

Justin Wartell
February 20, 2019 By Justin Wartell