CVS says it plans to enter primary care by the end of the year

A CVS Pharmacy store is seen in the Manhattan borough of New York, New York.

Shannon Stapleton | Reuters

SVC said Wednesday that it plans to acquire or take a stake in a primary care company by the end of the year, as competition intensifies with Amazon and Walgreens.

CEO Karen Lynch said about the company second quarter results call that the company wants to team up with a vendor that has a strong management team, strong technology experience, and the ability to scale quickly.

CVS, best known for its many pharmacies, has touchpoints in the healthcare industry. It acquired insurer Aetna and pharmaceutical benefits manager Caremark. Customers can get vaccines or emergency care at MinuteClinic outposts inside its stores. And the company also continues to add more health services to these locations – it recently introduced therapy services in select stores.

CVS does not yet have a doctor’s office where patients can go for an annual checkup or appointments with a doctor or nurse practitioner. At an investor day last year, Lynch told CVS wants to change that by buying or partnering with a company.

At the time, Dr. Alan Lotvin, executive vice president of CVS Health and president of CVS Caremark, said he envisioned CVS to stand out in primary care. The company wants to offer longer hours at its doctor’s offices so people can visit as early as 6 a.m., until 9 p.m. or on weekends. He also wants to use simple, streamlined technology, so customers don’t have to fill out piles of paperwork.

Other healthcare players have already taken steps into space. Rival Walgreens Boots Alliance is opening of hundreds of medical offices in partnership with VillageMD and became the majority owner of the company. walmart has a small but growing number of clinics where people can see a doctor, dentist or therapist at low cost.

Amazon ratcheted up the heat by announcing last month that it acquire primary care provider One Medical for about $3.9 billion. The boutique healthcare company has 188 medical practices in 25 markets, according to its last quarterly results.

Lynch said CVS has a competitive advantage with the size of its business. She said nearly 4.8 million customers interact with the company every day on CVS sites. Additionally, she said, MinuteClinic visits increased 12% in the fiscal second quarter.

CVS can build “from the strong foundation we already have,” Lynch said.