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CVS and Salesforce team-up for safe return to work play in a still-changing COVID environment

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan August 13, 2020
The alliance between pharmacy chain CVS and Salesforce is the latest response to a safe return to the workplace, in North America at least.


Earlier this week Salesforce and CVS Health announced a new tie-up as part of both organizations pushes to re-open workplaces safely, pooling their respective and Return Ready offerings. was rolled out by Salesforce in May as a set of applications for COVID-19 workplace requirements, including on-site visitor management, shift scheduling and wellness checks, while Return Ready is a CVS package to provide workplaces and colleges with various testing options. 

The intention of the new alliance is to provide a complementary set of solutions that can be integrated in one centralized source using the Workplace Command Center. According to the official pitch, key features include:

  • Wellness Monitoring via to assess employee health and wellness. 
  • COVID-19 Testing via CVS Health's solutions to develop a customized testing strategy
  • Reporting to enable COVID-19 test results to be shared via CVS Health with an organization, which can then view data securely in Salesforce to manage risk and assess current re-opening status in three key areas: personnel, spaces and policies.
  • Contact Tracing using Salesforce's manual contact tracing solution to notify those who may have been exposed and identify possible points of transmission. Testing can then be carried out onsite or at a CVS pharmacy. 
  • Shift Management to enable organizations to schedule employee shifts based on new workplace capacity models. 

According to Dr Sree Chaguturu, Chief Medical Officer at CVS Caremark, the alliance is built on accumulated real world experience: 

We've had the opportunity to talk to hundreds and hundreds of employers and universities across the country. One of the things that's been consistent is how specific the business continuity concerns and health and safety concerns are for every particular employer and university. As we support universities and employers, it starts first with consultation, really understanding what are the specific business continuity issues and what is the role of testing in those continuity issues? Is it to test for symptomatic individuals, people who have been exposed, or ongoing surveillance?

Once we have an understanding of the reasons we're testing as part of their continuity, we have a set of solutions related to testing, whether or not it is using and leveraging the retail network and all those access points across the country, or having us come on site to do on site 'swab and send' where we send to central reference laboratories and we can test large volumes of populations. Or  [we can do] rapid testing, using point of care, where results can be had in up to 15 minutes. We have analytics and reporting back out to public health agencies, vaccination services and mental health services. So really is a very unique approach to using testing.

That said, this is an evolving solution, he adds: 

It really has been a rapidly changing environment. It has been only been months since we've had this pandemic. Even in a specific geography, the epidemiology changes. The science is fast moving. How we use testing, how you use these solutions to help secure the worksite or the campus, moving forward it can only become more complex as we have individuals who have been previously infected, those who have been vaccinated, those who are neither. How do you stitch all of these solutions together to actually secure the safety of the worksite?

Re-opening isn’t a ‘one and done’ event, agrees Dr. Ashwini Zenooz, Chief Medical Officer at Salesforce:

Organizations are constantly stabilizing their operations during this crisis, thinking and planning about how to get their employees back to work in a responsible way into their workplaces. They're thinking about preparing training and wellness programs, looking at new ways of working and new business models. COVID testing is very, very important. It's an important tool, but employers need a really comprehensive strategy that includes other solutions, like manual contact tracing and wellness monitoring. These things are critical to prevent an outbreak in the workplace. 

Eating the dog food 

For its part, Salesforce has been ‘eating its own dog food’ with regards to re-opening its own various corporate workplaces, including a lot of very tall buildings around the world. On the front line here is Elizabeth Pinkham, responsible for Salesforce’s global real estate strategy and overseeing the company’s workplace design. For Pinkham, the past few months have been a learning experience: 

One of our biggest realizations early on was that we were going to need to manage incredible amounts of new data, new information and we were going to have to do this really at massive scale for thousands of employees. We're looking at data that we've literally never had to manage before, things like health wellness checks and team shift management and even the health of each and every building. So right away we realized we had to be more flexible, more nimble, more agile and we had to do it at scale. 

Of course, technology is the way to do that. We're leveraging the Salesforce platform with, but we're also using solutions from amazing third parties so we can keep making really good decisions and building trust with our employee base. One of the first things that happened is that we started using, as kind of ‘Customer Zero’, our own technology. I use the Workplace Command Center as part of that. It's kind of my single view, my single pane of glass, where I can look across [the organization]. That capability is going to be extended to support more testing and better employee wellness with this strategic relationship with CVS. 

In practical terms, all physical building assets need to be reviewed, she adds: 

We're looking, by each and every building, the office readiness, social distancing for each and every floor, every square inch really. We're scheduling people in shifts, since you'll have to bring back fewer people than before with the new designs of all the spaces. Even elevators, we're now managing staggered arrival times so that you can manage your elevator queues. And there's nothing more important than our daily wellness checks that we're running with our own employees. Every day at home, they'll answer a few questions, which will then trigger their arrival time and their shift confirmation, all the deep cleanings and then, of course, manual contact tracing. 

It's so important to re-think all of this and at the end of the day it's all about the people, that's our most valuable asset, that's who we're focused on keeping safe. Everything is changing. What we know today is different than what we will know tomorrow, so we're just going to keep open, we're going to keep flexible, learning and sharing all of these ideas and these new best practices and technologies so that together we can all really re-open responsibly when the time is right.

On the subject of what happens next, one thing that can be predicted with some confidence is that organizations are investing more broadly in digital health, says Zenooz, and that’s not likely to change: 

There's also a lot of cross-industry collaboration between health and retail, tech, public sector and all of this I see is really igniting innovation. I don't really know where we'll end up or what the world will look like post this pandemic when it's all said and done, but one thing I do know is a lot of technology and healthcare is making a leap forward and having rapid adoption, just like e-commerce. I think these innovations are really going to benefit us for years to come. What's important in times of crisis is the ability to adopt, mobilize and execute the right type of technology strategy quickly. That's really important to the success of businesses. 

My take

All of this makes a lot of sense and sounds like a compelling proposition for end user organizations. As someone who doesn’t live within a thousand miles of a CVS however, I’m keen to know how this alliance is going to be replicated outside of US zip codes. Will there be an avatar of this relationship with, for example, Boots or Superdrug in the UK, given that this tie-up with CVS is clearly such a key alliance in the US? I’ve asked the question. Watch this space is the status quo for now. 

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