How CVS and Epic Hope to Lower Drug Costs

Jack Murtha

The powerhouse team wants to use data to help patients and providers.

Can the power of big data lead to cheaper prescription drugs? CVS Health and Epic Systems think so.

The pharmacy company and healthcare software business are joining forces to “help lower drug costs for patients and improve outcomes,” in a push that will use enhanced analytics and data sharing to inform prescribers of less expensive medications or treatment paths, according to a statement. CVS Health announced the collaboration yesterday.

The idea is that Epic’s electronic health records (EHR) software will bring real-time information to patients and their care teams, from physicians and pharmacists to health insurers, according to the companies. What’s more, “point-of-prescribing electronic prior authorization” will help patients and providers better understand where these alternatives exist.

“Together, our 2 companies will also examine opportunities to streamline and improve data sharing and linkages across the healthcare system to enhance communication among patients, their physicians, the pharmacy, and health insurers,” Stephen Gold, chief information officer of CVS Health, said in a statement.

He said the new initiative will enable CVS to further pursue innovation outside the traditional pharmacy.

CVS Health already works with Epic, which boasts the most widely-used EHR system, according to the announcement. Epic’s technology supports CVS Specialty’s care management programs and the MinuteClinic nurse practitioners.

By partnering with Epic, CVS aims to take advantage of its EHR, providing data at the point when experts and physicians have said is most useful to doctors: in the clinic. Troyen A. Brennan, CVS Health’s chief medical officer, said this will empower the company to “develop meaningful tools” that will ultimately help patients.

Along with prescription drug cost savings, the pair intends to improve prescribing decisions by developing a clinical database to improve medication counseling and selection, according to CVS. The effort also stands to give pharmacists greater access to clinical information and voice in the care plan. Plus, the collaborators said they plan to create a “digital front store” that will add over-the-counter meds and medical equipment to a patient’s EHR.

An Epic executive said the company decided to partner with CVS because it has used data to break down silos in the past. Further, he said, the work ahead could improve data integration, relieve administrative burden, and more.

“These promising advances put the patient at the center of care,” said Gregory Rosencrance, MD, chair of the Cleveland Clinic Medicine Institute, whose network and quality alliance includes CVS, “while improving the cost and quality of care they receive.”