Will seniors trust CVS to keep them safe with in-home IoT?

Photo: RetailWire
Mar 03, 2021

CVS recently announced the rollout of a medical alert system to meet senior customers’ healthcare needs in their homes.

The system, called Symphony, consists of a suite of health-oriented wearables, smart devices and a voice-activated smart hub that allows users to call for assistance from caregivers, according to Home Health Care News. The user can opt to utilize features such as motion, temperature and air quality sensors which can be set up to automatically contact caregivers in the event of a reading that indicates danger to the senior.

While the notion of setting up seniors with an emergency call button may evoke memories of the oft lampooned LifeAlert commercials, the demand for senior-specific health technology is growing. Major retailers outside of pharmacy already began taking note a few years ago.

Toward the end of the last decade, as tech retailers began exploring new markets in which to sell Internet of Things (IoT) products and new models for deploying them, one of the biggest tech and gadget retailers began focusing on home technology geared toward the seniors market. Best Buy began installing customized suites of integrated health monitoring tools in homes of seniors, which include tools to measure food consumption via smart refrigerators, predict falling risk and monitor heart rate.

Such solutions began coming to market as a few trends converged: the emergence of an aging population with a higher level of comfort with technology than in the past, and the anticipation that Baby Boomers will want to remain living in their homes and preserve their personal autonomy as they reach an age at which members of earlier generations may have moved into assisted living communities.

This isn’t CVS’s first foray into home health care. In recent years the chain has begun offering services like in-home dialysis.

Nor is CVS the only retail pharmacy to recognize the importance of meeting aging customers’ needs. In 2017, Walgreens drew accolades for its mobile app, which incorporated a slate of features such as a Pill Reminder function and adjustable text. The app experienced usage among customers 55 and older at a rate twice that of the industry average.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think CVS and other retail pharmacies will succeed with in home tech services? Could retail pharmacies use home technology to deliver other adjacent services to their customer base in ways that would differentiate them from Best Buy and other strictly tech competitors?

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"CVS and others will be successful in delivering home tech services as more seniors watch their friends use the services offered."

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14 Comments on "Will seniors trust CVS to keep them safe with in-home IoT?"

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David Naumann
David Naumann
Marketing Strategy Lead - Retail, Travel & Distribution, Verizon
1 year 6 months ago

Using technology to monitor the health of seniors is a growing trend that will accelerate as new technology is introduced. Predictive and responsive alerts will help seniors stay in their homes longer and give their children more peace knowing that their parents’ health is being monitored. With a growing population of seniors, this is a huge market opportunity.

Bob Amster

CVS and others will succeed with half of the senior population. However they could be more successful with expanding their services to a larger population than just seniors.

Harley Feldman

CVS and others will be successful in delivering home tech services as more seniors watch their friends use the services offered. They will also likely be encouraged by their children as a “safeguard” technology. This is especially true with tech savvy seniors who realize that for a monthly fee, they are able to get warnings about potential medical issues with early detection.

An additional service the retail pharmacies can deliver over Best Buy is monitoring pharmaceutical use and refill since they have that information about the customer that Best Buy does not have. Another service potential is to track usage and make replenishment recommendations of non-pharmaceutical items sold by the retail pharmacy to the customer. While this information is not as important as pharmaceuticals, it would provide a steadier and more dependable ordering of those products more dedicated to the provider of the IoT technology if it is a retail pharmacy.

Dave Bruno

The youngest Boomers have lived with and worked with technology for 25 years. Most young Boomers have smart speakers, smart phones, smart doorbells, smart TVs and smart washing machines. Smart health and safety devices are the next logical step. I only wonder if people will look to drug stores for in-home tech. I suspect CVS will need some serious marketing investments to create not only awareness of these services but also to build consumer trust in their ability to install, support and evolve the tech. Best Buy has a big head start here.

DeAnn Campbell

They have a real shot at becoming the go-to provider for “smart” senior care. With their health clinics and pharmacy, CVS has already earned the trust of their senior customers. And the growing comfort level all age groups have with smart in-home appliances and electronics is removing the resistance to any perception of “monitoring.” The key will be whether CVS can provide reliable, convenient installation assistance. Maintaining a labor force to handle installation and customer service is going to be a critical driver in the success or failure of this initiative.

Gene Detroyer

Healthcare and healthcare technology are among the biggest investment opportunities in the next decade. Driven by technology and data, personal health related devices will become ubiquitous.

CVS is smart to start with seniors. While using the technology might be a hard sell, the need for it will be embracing. It also helps CVS focus on one segment as they further develop their offering.

I don’t know if this is the future for pharmacies. I can see this type of service being offered by insurance companies, hospitals, partnerships with tech companies and even Medicare.

Brandon Rael

As long as CVS and other retail pharmacies can gain the trust and confidence of the growing seniors market, there is a significant opportunity to succeed with in-home technology services. There is a misconception that seniors are not adept at adapting to new technologies. However seniors have welcomed health monitoring systems and appreciate all the convenience that comes with smart devices.

There are great advantages for both CVS and the other retail pharmacies to take a more prescriptive approach by leveraging all the powerful consumer insights to drive more personalized assortments and experiences.

Bindu Gupta

Though senior citizens are becoming more tech savvy by purchasing smartphones, smart television and even smart home technology, they often do not take full advantage of their devices, and they are concerned about privacy issues online. For retail pharmacies to succeed with this target audience in home tech services, it is essential for them to provide resources that will educate the senior citizens on how best to use these services and how to protect their privacy online.

Shep Hyken

These technologies have been around. The use is gaining in popularity. For this to work with seniors, who may not be as adept with technology as a younger generation, they need to be properly trained. One place to start is with doctors recommending the tech – and suggesting where to get it. My bet is that if the pharmacy has it, that’s where they will send their patients. After all, that is where they are filling and refilling their prescriptions.

Raj B. Shroff

Amazon is the only retailer who is truly in the home (70 percent of smart speaker users, use an Echo) today. The next battle will be for ownership of the home and it will be easiest for Amazon to continue to add smart tech to our homes. Other retailers need to pay attention to the Trojan Horse and find ways to be better integrated and I think CVS is smart to jump in. CVS is a brand many elderly people trust, they have the expertise and ability to build a health and in-home services ecosystem that could then be used for younger generations as they age.

At the same time, Amazon could elevate their in-home game because they are already in the home. I’ll be curious to see how this plays out and if CVS can evolve it into something more — can they think three or four steps ahead and really make this a competitive advantage?

Ricardo Belmar

The target audience for this service and technology is partly used to smart technology already. Many already have smart speakers and smart TVs, so this may actually feel like a natural extension. However I am not so sure anyone in that audience would look to a pharmacy brand to deliver smart technology, and not likely CVS. If anything, CVS has a branding issue and marketing problem ahead of them. Many potential customers in this target audience rely on their children who are more used to technology like this, or at the very least look to them for advice. Those advisors are not going to believe CVS is a reliable and trusted source for IoT technology for health services. I’d expect such services to be more successful if coming from a more tech-savvy brand than CVS. After all, CVS is still generally known to everyone for its absurdly long receipts!

Trevor Sumner

It really depends on the adoption of their health clinics. CVS’s stores don’t have the brand, aesthetic and sales expertise to meet the reliable, zero-fail expectation we have for the medical home. But if they get traction on the medical consult side, away from those messy aisles, they will see real traction with much higher price point and higher margin products. And that could be transformative.

Rich Kizer

It doesn’t seem that long ago when we saw the tidal wave of the Baby Boom generation hit our retail shores, and how it changed a lot of things as they grew and became the punch in the market place. A huge group then, and still demanding with their needs. And now this huge group, albeit older, is marching on and carrying its specific demands, again. That being said, I believe this aging, huge group of consumers brings much opportunity. It’s still true … “those kids have money!” and many demands for their aging issues. Retailers: pay attention!

Mel Kleiman

The company that is going to win the war for implementation in the senior home care market is the company that is going to figure out how to make it simple. If it is too complex to install and use, it will be an uphill battle.

"CVS and others will be successful in delivering home tech services as more seniors watch their friends use the services offered."

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