Helena Foulkes


Executive Vice President, CVS Caremark and President, CVS/pharmacy

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Your recent announcement to stop selling tobacco made headlines, as did the subsequent actions by 28 state attorneys general to pressure your competitors to do the same. Can you share with us a little of the thinking that went into the decision and what it says about your company?

CVS Caremark’s purpose is helping people on their path to better health, and every action that we take and decision we make is viewed through the filter of this purpose. It guides everything we do. Our decision to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at our more than 7,600 CVS/pharmacy stores across the U.S. by October 1, 2014, underscores our role in the evolving healthcare system.

Pharmacies are becoming more involved in chronic disease management to help patients with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. All of these conditions are exacerbated by smoking. When we thought about where we expect to be in five years as a healthcare company, it was clear that removing tobacco products from our stores was the right thing to do.

Furthermore, eliminating tobacco from our stores more closely aligns us with PBM (pharmacy benefit management) clients, health plans, and healthcare provider partners who, like us, are working to deliver better health outcomes for their members and patients while reducing healthcare costs.

There is enormous change in the U.S. healthcare system now with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. How do you see this impacting CVS’s retail business going forward?

CVS Caremark is playing a growing role in the evolving healthcare landscape driven by the increasing demands for care. First there’s the issue of the uninsured. The Affordable Care Act, when fully implemented, will result in more than 30 million newly insured Americans, most of whom will be actively involved in selecting their coverage through health insurance exchanges.

Another stress point on the system: Medicaid expansion and the “Silver Tsunami,” the 10,000 Baby Boomers who become eligible for Medicare every day. America is facing a long-term increase in demand for services and use of medications. We are helping with this as a pharmacy innovation company through our unique products, services and benefit plan designs.

Another driver is the increasing prevalence of chronic disease. Half of all Americans suffer from one or more chronic diseases, and this prevalence is expected to continue to rise over the next 20 years. Many, if not most, of these conditions are highly treatable with prescription medication.

With that as context, we know that the healthcare industry is expected to change more in the next ten years than it has in the past 50. Delivery of healthcare has evolved with an emphasis on better health outcomes, reducing chronic disease and controlling costs.

As a pharmacy innovation company, CVS Caremark is driving many innovative approaches. The ultimate goal is to help more people on their path to better health.

The modern pharmacy offers consumers everything from prescriptions to Minute Clinics to food and school supplies. How do you see CVS evolving in the future?

Today, we’re a pharmacy innovation company with 7,600 stores, serving 5 million customers each day. We provide prescription benefits to more than 63 million people through our pharmacy benefit management company. And we’re also the leader in retail medical clinics, with more than 800 MinuteClinic locations in 28 states and Washington, D.C.

Traditionally, people have thought about pharmacies as pill dispensaries. We know pharmacy is much more than that. We have more than 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners engaging with people on a daily basis. Pharmacy care continues to be one of the most accessible parts of the healthcare delivery system; pharmacists are in a unique position to help and are highly trusted resources for patients.

As our business model evolved from a retailer to a pharmacy innovation company, we took time to examine our mission, vision, and values so they’d reflect the company we had become. What we came up with was a purpose—helping people on their path to better health. In addition, our strategy is reinventing pharmacy to provide caring, expert guidance, new cost-effective solutions, and even more convenient access to care.

What has been MinuteClinic’s biggest impact on CVS’s retail business? Is MinuteClinic an area of growth for CVS in the future?

MinuteClinic is not only an area of growth for CVS Caremark, it is also the largest and fastest growing retail clinic provider (in the U.S.) Today we have more than 800 clinics across the country and we have plans to expand to more than 1,500 clinics nationwide by 2017. As a healthcare provider, MinuteClinic is focused on delivering high quality, accessible care for common illnesses. We are committed to continuity of care, fully support the physician-led medical home, and believe that MinuteClinic can play a complementary role with primary care practices in providing care to patients.

Our nurse practitioners and physician assistants provide high quality, affordable walk-in healthcare services seven days a week without appointments. Half of our patients are seen in the evening or on weekends. We are often the most cost-effective and convenient option. And with the shortage of primary care physicians expected to reach 45,000 doctors in 2020, it’s not surprising that in several of our markets more than half of our patients do not have a primary care physician.

We continue to integrate MinuteClinic with other healthcare providers. We now have affiliations with more than 30 major health systems that provide collaborating physicians, electronic medical record integration, and opportunities for joint clinical programs.

We are also expanding services at MinuteClinic to include more diagnostic and chronic disease monitoring services, and we’re looking at additional services to add further value.

From a retail perspective, what is most unique about CVS versus your pharmacy competitors?

We recognize that the future of retail healthcare will be dominated by companies that design service and services with the customer in mind. We put our customers at the center of our universe and constantly ask what our most important pharmacy customers want. Our success as a retail healthcare company will be reflected in the differentiated customer experience we will provide to win our customers for life.

We are well positioned with the power of our CVS brand and the trusting relationships built through face-to-face interactions between our pharmacists and millions of patients. We know we can help consumers with the information and the medications they need to manage their health. Many other players in the healthcare industry envy our brand and the frequency of experiences we have with our customers. Healthcare reform and Medicaid expansion will bring coverage to even more Americans who will need pharmacy help. We are prepared to serve them.

We’re focused on driving pharmacy growth and enabling our enterprise offerings: our unique suite of assets, from the largest U.S. network of retail clinics to programs such as the Pharmacy Advisor to help manage chronic conditions to our new Specialty Connect program for specialty drugs. In addition to consumers, we’re also focused on being the partner of choice for health plans and payors.

Personalization is also core to our retail strategy. Our ExtraCare program, the largest retail loyalty program in the country, is unmatched in delivering personalized savings and rewards to customers. Through the program’s 15 years of customer insights we can design offerings based on what individual customers want from their CVS shopping experience.

We’ve also extended personalization to the first-in-the-industry personalized circular. Our new digital circular, called myWeeklyAd, is customized to each individual shopper. Every customer sees their own version of the circular online that is tailored to showcase the offers most relevant to them.

Finally, we have some big goals for our enterprise digital strategy. We know it can deliver a differentiated customer experience and that it helps us to deliver better health outcomes for our patients at lower costs. While every retail organization is expanding its digital presence, because of the integrated nature of our business model, we’re bringing together all of our digital assets to create a seamless experience for our customers.

About Helena Foulkes


Helena Foulkes is Executive Vice President, CVS Caremark, and President, CVS/pharmacy, a position she has held since January 2014. In this role, Foulkes has responsibility for all aspects of the company’s Retail business including its more than 7,600 retail stores, 19 distribution centers and e-commerce sites, as well as merchandising, supply chain, marketing, real estate, front store and pharmacy operations. In addition, Foulkes manages the Company’s enterprise digital, brand and communications teams.

Over the course of her twenty-year career at CVS Caremark, Foulkes has amassed an extensive background in retail and health care marketing and strategy, and has played an important leadership role in growing the company from its retail roots to the largest pharmacy health care provider in the United States. Most recently, Foulkes served as Executive Vice President and Chief Health Care Strategy and Marketing Officer with responsibility for overall corporate strategy and enterprise marketing and communications for the company.

Foulkes is credited with leading innovations such as groundbreaking pharmacy health care programs, such as Maintenance Choice and Pharmacy Adviser, as well as ExtraCare, the largest retail loyalty program in the country with more than 70 million active cardholders.

Prior to joining CVS Caremark in 1992, Foulkes worked at Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Tiffany & Co. She has received numerous professional honors and serves on the boards of The Home Depot, The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and The Wheeler School.

Foulkes received her undergraduate degree from Harvard College and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.