October 21, 2021 Episode 035

The Retailers are Coming (Part 2): CVS Health’s Chief Strategy & Business Development Officer Josh Flum

With an unmatched geographical footprint, deep, personal relationships with people and communities across the country, and digital properties that are among the most used in healthcare, CVS Health is reimagining care to put consumers first.

The Retailers are Coming (Part 2): CVS Health’s Chief Strategy & Business Development Officer Josh Flum

In the United States, 85% of the population resides within 10 miles of a CVS Pharmacy. Through continued growth and expansion since its founding as a health and beauty products retailer in the early 1960s, CVS Health has now become America’s largest health services company. That expansion accelerated over the last two decades through acquisitions of companies like MinuteClinic, Caremark and Aetna that embedded CVS even more deeply into the U.S. healthcare system and communities across the country.

Josh Flum has played key roles in CVS Health’s transformation and healthcare strategy for nearly 20 years. After Yale Law School and a few years as a white-collar criminal defense attorney in Washington, DC, Josh decided on a career change and landed a job at Boston Consulting Group where he first crossed paths with CVS. In this episode of Healthcare is Hard, Josh tells Keith Figlioli about one project at BCG where he was begrudgingly selected to spend two weeks virtually living at CVS pharmacies learning everything there is to know about how they operate. That assignment proved invaluable for the rest of Josh’s career. Since joining CVS in 2004, he has held several senior roles including leading pharmacy operations and overseeing Enterprise Product Innovation and Development teams. He also co-founded and leads CVS Health Ventures, and is currently CVS Health’s Chief Strategy & Business Development Officer.

Josh and Keith covered several pressing topics during this Healthcare is Hard interview including:

  • The next evolution in pharmacy. Josh talks about fundamental shifts in the pharmacy business that have occurred in his career and what he thinks is in store for the future. While the deeply personal connection between people, families and pharmacists has always persisted – and will be integral for the future – the pharmacy business has moved from being about medication fulfilment, to clinical pharmacy care including medication adherence, to other aspects of medical care such as testing and immunizations. Josh says the future will be about pharmacists practicing at the top of their license and balancing clinical care interventions with new technology and the consumer relationships that pharmacists have always maintained.
  • The retail threat. Keith posed the same question to Josh that he asked Walgreen’s CMO on last month’s Healthcare is Hard episode: how should incumbent healthcare delivery players think about the emerging role of retailers? To Josh, it comes down to how a company fits into three trends: patient as consumer; care in community, home and virtual settings; and technology. Josh says CVS feels very well positioned to play a big role in the future of healthcare as these trends continue to evolve, while recognizing that the company still has much more to do and will need to work in partnership with the broader healthcare system to make the kind of change that is necessary.
  • The flip side of innovation. Through his role at CVS Health Ventures, Josh sees many of the exciting developments that are going to make care easier and more ubiquitous, but sometimes wonders if the pace of advancement could overwhelm consumers. Putting himself in the consumer’s shoes, he says it’s all about trust. He believes consumers will turn to the people and organizations they know and trust to help navigate new experiences – organizations like CVS Health. For its part in the innovation ecosystem, Josh says CVS Health Ventures is currently focusing on investment themes including care delivery, consumer centric healthcare, whole person care and disruptive tech enablement that crosses all these domains.

To hear Josh and Keith talk about these topics and more, listen to this episode of Healthcare is Hard.