CVS y más
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If you want better health it helps to have someone you can talk to in your language about medications or therapies or prevention, in an environment that is welcoming and familiar.
That hasn’t always been easy to find for many Hispanic consumers. But that’s changing, thanks to a concerted effort by CVS Health—shepherded by vice president Vince Urrutia—to look for ways to help people on their path to better health.
In 2014, CVS Health acquired the popular Navarro Discount Pharmacy, the largest Hispanic-owned drugstore chain in the United States. Urrutia (who had worked for both companies) helped launch CVS y más—new stores that combine the best of CVS and Navarro to create a new in-store experience that’s tailored for customers in Hispanic communities.
There’s a huge need: more than 1 in 4 Hispanic adults in the United States don’t have a usual healthcare provider, and more than 4 in 5 get their health information from alternative sources like TV and radio, according to Pew Hispanic Center research. Many in healthcare know there’s a gap and an opportunity to fill it if they take the time to understand the needs and healthcare challenges of the people in their communities.
CVS is a pioneer in this area. We talked with Urrutia about CVS y más and what the company is doing to improve healthcare awareness, education and access for Hispanic customers.
What made you think that CVS Health could do more for the Hispanic community?
CVS Health has been focused on serving Hispanic consumers for a number of years in its stores and pharmacies—with multicultural signage and products that resonate with the community. During my time at Navarro, before the acquisition, I saw Navarro’s deep connection with Hispanic consumers. I could see there was an opportunity to bring that level of engagement to this new venture. CVS y más is a hybrid, it’s the best of both worlds. It’s what you’d get if you married CVS and Navarro—which is basically what we did.
What is CVS y más?
It’s a version of our stores and pharmacies structured specifically with Hispanic consumers in mind:
This is about more than just offering different products. We want people to feel welcome and comfortable in a CVS y más store. To make people feel welcome, we really needed to get to know them.
How did you get to know them?
We held focus groups, so they could tell us what would make them feel welcome. There are two forces at work: one is aspirations, and the other is value.
Hispanic consumers feel comfortable when there’s a sense of abundance. This goes back to how they lived in their country of origin, wherever that may be. They often lived with very little and shopped at stores that had one or two of a particular item on the shelf. So when they come into our store and see big displays, an overabundance of an item—that creates a sense of ease. They know they can come in and buy as many as they need.
They want the conveniences and indulgences that the United States is known for, but they also want to feel like they can find their brands at great prices.
If you can bring these two forces together—aspirations and value—that creates real connection within the community.
Here’s a specific example: designer fragrances. Hispanic consumers are often on a strict budget so they’re value-conscious. But they also want to buy high-end designer items. So we started offering fragrance counters, with luxury items at prices that are lower than department store prices by about 70 percent.
It’s really about creating a carefully crafted balance.
How did you take what you learned and act on it?
The timing couldn’t have been better. CVS Health had just acquired Navarro and given us every freedom to enhance it. We basically got a blank check and full autonomy. So we took these cultural insights and turned them into CVS y más. We started with 12 pilot stores in Miami, which turned out to be the most successful pilot project in the company’s history. The success there helped pave the way to expand the concept into California, where we’ve opened 13 stores to date. We’re seeing even greater results there.
How does changing your stores improve healthcare for Hispanic customers?
This has been the most important result to us: customers are using our pharmacy services. One of our biggest goals is to connect Hispanic consumers into healthcare long-term.
Hispanic women, just like women of all ethnicities, are often the ones taking care of immediate and extended family—picking up medications and relaying instructions from the pharmacist. It’s such an important and critical role for the entire family. How do we help her as a caregiver?
We want her to have confidence that she can walk into our store and feel welcomed and speak Spanish. Even if she speaks English, she might need to explain the instructions to someone else in Spanish. To be able to speak directly to a pharmacist in Spanish and not have to use a phone and translator—that’s huge.
What are your plans for the future?
We’ve also launched a CVS Minute Clinic for Hispanics in a Navarro location. It’s got larger exam rooms and a larger waiting area, because often several family members come in at once.
We also want to encourage Hispanic youth to consider careers in the medical field. So we’re creating a scholarship fund and also internship programs for undergraduate and graduate students. We’re working on a career-mapping program that will include different areas of the whole operation. Any discipline can connect back to healthcare in a meaningful way.
Any closing thoughts?
We see this as a huge responsibility that we bear—to look for ways to help people on their path to better health. We hope other companies will feel excited and compelled to jump in and take action with us.
We want to be on the forefront of creating innovative solutions to healthcare for everyone. We’ve been talking about the Hispanic community in particular, but this applies across the board. When a company gets to know its customers on a deeper level and personalizes a store environment to a community, there’s power there.