Firdaus Bhathena can think of a number of different projects that would keep him incredibly busy. 

Technology is coming for healthcare, and the centuries-old companies in the industry are facing a steep learning curve.

So they’ve brought on experts liked Bhathena to helm up the companies digital strategies. Bhathena is the chief digital officer of CVS Health, first came into his role in 2016 as a part of Aetna, the massive health insurer CVS acquired in 2018. 

Bhathena Firdaus   pic

CVS Health Chief Digital Officer Firdaus Bhathena
Courtesy CVS Health


CVS is a $98 billion company that provides insurance to 39 million people and operates nearly 10,000 pharmacies. The first CVS store opened in 1963.

Within the now combined company, Bhathena has to avoid being spread too thin. 

“It’s very tempting to — what we say in the tech world — to sort of peanut-butter spread your resources across a whole bunch of different things,” Bhathena said. 

Read more: We spoke with the execs tasked with bringing technology to some of the world’s oldest healthcare companies. Here’s how they’re picking their spots.

Using technology for a simpler consumer experience

What’s driving Bhathena’s group, he said, is a focus on improving the consumer experience within the whole organization, rather than focusing on a particular part of the business. 

That can be as basic as making sure the website is up and running or powering the technology that allows users to check if there’s a MinuteClinic appointment available.

Read more: We asked the CEO of CVS to share how he plans to use his 10,000 pharmacies to upend healthcare. This is the story he told us.

Ideally, Bhathena said, it’d be a world in which CVS could have a comprehensive picture of a person so that when they come in for a visit, the organization understands that you’re an Aetna member who uses CVS Caremark to manage prescription benefits, and that you’ve been in for three clinic visits in the past month.

Right now, that information isn’t connected, often meaning patients have to start from scratch every time they go into a retail clinic or have a virtual visit.

It could also mean getting more precise with messaging, such a prompting an Aetna member who hasn’t been to the doctor in years to go, rather than reaching out to all Aetna members, including those who have been in to see their doctors recently. 

In particular, there are three areas of technology Bhathena is paying close attention to: AI for healthcare, connected devices, and virtual care. Ideally, those technologies combined could make getting care more connected and easy to use for consumers. 

“I hope that in the next three years, when you join a health plan, you won’t just get a glossy brochure in the mail,”  Bhathena said.

Instead, you’ll also get a box with connected devices that might be able to help you better triage health incidents with the help of AI, figuring out if you might need to have a virtual visit or come in for an urgent-care or emergency-room visit, and connecting all the way to a pharmacy if a prescription is needed that could be delivered to your door.  

Read more: Walgreens and CVS have dueling visions for the future of pharmacies. Here are the biggest obstacles each one faces.

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