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CVS Health’s chief digital officer on the company’s tech strategy

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Firdaus Bhathena can think of a number of different projects that would keep him incredibly busy. 

Technology is coming for healthcare, and the centuries-old companies in the industry are facing a steep learning curve.

So they’ve brought on experts liked Bhathena to helm up the companies digital strategies. Bhathena is the chief digital officer of CVS Health, first came into his role in 2016 as a part of Aetna, the massive health insurer CVS acquired in 2018. 

Bhathena Firdaus   pic

CVS Health Chief Digital Officer Firdaus Bhathena
Courtesy CVS Health


CVS is a $98 billion company that provides insurance to 39 million people and operates nearly 10,000 pharmacies. The first CVS store opened in 1963.

Within the now combined company, Bhathena has to avoid being spread too thin. 

“It’s very tempting to — what we say in the tech world — to sort of peanut-butter spread your resources across a whole bunch of different things,” Bhathena said. 

Read more: We spoke with the execs tasked with bringing technology to some of the world’s oldest healthcare companies. Here’s how they’re picking their spots.

Using technology for a simpler consumer experience

What’s driving Bhathena’s group, he said, is a focus on improving the consumer experience within the whole organization, rather than focusing on a particular part of the business. 

That can be as basic as making sure the website is up and running or powering the technology that allows users to check if there’s a MinuteClinic appointment available.

Read more: We asked the CEO of CVS to share how he plans to use his 10,000 pharmacies to upend healthcare. This is the story he told us.

Ideally, Bhathena said, it’d be a world in which CVS could have a comprehensive picture of a person so that when they come in for a visit, the organization understands that you’re an Aetna member who uses CVS Caremark to manage prescription benefits, and that you’ve been in for three clinic visits in the past month.

Right now, that information isn’t connected, often meaning patients have to start from scratch every time they go into a retail clinic or have a virtual visit.

It could also mean getting more precise with messaging, such a prompting an Aetna member who hasn’t been to the doctor in years to go, rather than reaching out to all Aetna members, including those who have been in to see their doctors recently. 

In particular, there are three areas of technology Bhathena is paying close attention to: AI for healthcare, connected devices, and virtual care. Ideally, those technologies combined could make getting care more connected and easy to use for consumers. 

“I hope that in the next three years, when you join a health plan, you won’t just get a glossy brochure in the mail,”  Bhathena said.

Instead, you’ll also get a box with connected devices that might be able to help you better triage health incidents with the help of AI, figuring out if you might need to have a virtual visit or come in for an urgent-care or emergency-room visit, and connecting all the way to a pharmacy if a prescription is needed that could be delivered to your door.  

Read more: Walgreens and CVS have dueling visions for the future of pharmacies. Here are the biggest obstacles each one faces.



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US cities declared coronavirus emergencies to free up funds

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  • So far four US cities and counties have declared public health emergencies over the new coronavirus. 
  • The declaration is meant as a preparedness plan, but officials said residents should not worry that they’re at a higher risk of contracting the novel virus. 
  • The measure is meant to allow those localities to free up funds to prepare in case of a potential outbreak. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Cities and counties in the US have declared health emergencies in to prepare for a potential outbreak of the new coronavirus — but it’s no reason to panic. 

Cities like San Francisco and counties, including San Diego County, Orange County, and Santa Clara County issued the emergency declarations to free up funding to tackle an outbreak if it occurs.

And in late January, Washington state declared a “level 1” emergency due to the COVID-19 virus. Washington state is where the first US case of the coronavirus was detected.

According to CNN, declaring an emergency can help a government get reimbursed for the money it spent on preparedness from the state and federal government. They are usually declared in cases of a natural disasters (wild fire, hurricane, earthquake, or another major weather event) or in the case of an other major emergency like a riot. 

San Francisco has “no known cases originating” in the city, but Mayor London Breed said the measure was about preparedness. 

“It allows us to look at things like shelters, and other opportunities for us to expand, in the event that that’s necessary, and do a broader assessment of the city’s capacity to respond in the event that there is an outbreak,” the city’s Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax told CNN.

In the case of San Francisco, declaring an emergency also mobilizes city professionals (nurses, social workers, etc.) to focus on preparedness.

In San Francisco the measure will stay in effect till March 3, but the board of supervisors could vote to extend it, CNN reported. 

Two cases were discovered in Santa Clara County, but no human-to-human transmission has been reported there. Local officials told KGO-TV that the declaration was to ensure the county could prepare in case an outbreak were to occur. 

“What we all understand is — especially because we have three hospitals and we have multiple clinics- is that we want to make sure that we’re providing the very best service, and giving people the very best information so they know how to protect themselves and their family,” Supervisor Cindy Chavez told KGO-TV. 

In Orange County, the declaration came after a court battle, over whether the federal government can transfer COVID-19 patients to a facility in Costa Mesa, California, The Los Angeles Times reported. 

The county has only had one case of the virus, and that patient had a full recovery. 

Last week, San Diego County also issued a health emergency over COVID-19. San Diego is home to the Miramar Air Base, where the federal government has been quarantining repatriated Americans coming from China. According to The Times, the county was made aware of 249 low to medium risks individuals who travelled to other places in China besides Wuhan, who the county has to monitor for symptoms. 

“We continue to obtain a daily list of approximately 20 to 30 names of individuals who are at medium risk and require public health supervision,” Wilma Wooten, San Diego County public health officer told the Los Angeles Times. 

The US has confirmed at least 60 cases of COVID-19, 42 of which were people evacuated from the Diamond Princess. One of the cases, the CDC said, has an unknown origin and is a possible case of “community spread.” The patient reportedly did not recently travel to China or interact with a patient with COVID-19. That person in Northern California is reportedly from Solano County, the congressman who represents the area said.

COVID-19 most likely originated in a wet market in Wuhan, China in December. It’s spread to more than 40 countries with 2,760 deaths and more than 81,000 infections. 





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Coronavirus: Italy has most cases outside Asia, scrambles to curb spread

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  • Italy is scrambling to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus within its borders as cases of COVID-19 soar.
  • Italy has the most cases outside of Asia. As of Wednesday evening, 12 people there had died from the disease.
  • The country has put almost a dozen towns under lockdown, canceled major sporting events, and debated closing its borders with neighboring countries.
  • The two most infected regions are Lombardy and Veneto in the north of Italy, home to Milan and Venice. New cases are also being reported in southern Italy.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Italy is scrambling to fight a coronavirus outbreak after a sharp spike in cases and deaths made it the worst-hit country outside of Asia.

As of Wednesday evening, 12 people in Italy had died from the virus. Italian authorities reported at least 400 cases of COVID-19 in the country, according to the BBC.

All the people who have died in Italy were elderly or had other health complications, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica and the Associated Press reported.

The country has put 11 towns on lockdown to contain the virus’ spread.

The two most infected regions are Lombardy and Veneto in the north, which contain the major cities of Milan and Venice. But the virus has also spread farther south, with regions including Tuscany and the island of Sicily also reporting cases on Tuesday and Wednesday.

People wearing sanitary masks walk past the Duomo gothic cathedral in Milan, Italy, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. A dozen Italian towns saw daily life disrupted after the deaths of two people infected with the virus from China and a pair of case clusters without direct links to the outbreak abroad. A rapid spike in infections prompted authorities in the northern Lombardy and Veneto regions to close schools, businesses and restaurants and to cancel sporting events and Masses. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

People walk past the Duomo in Milan on February 23.

Associated Press


Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced an emergency plan to quarantine towns late on Saturday, locking down the settlements by blocking most travel to and from them. He said the quarantine could last for weeks, the BBC reported.

Italian officials estimated on Monday that about 100,000 people in the country were affected by the travel restrictions. Schools, museums, and theaters across the region have been closed.

Police officers and members of the armed forces have been given the authority to enforce the lockdown, the BBC reported.

Italy coronavirus

Italian troops near a checkpoint at the entrance of the small Northern Italian town of Vo Euganeo, situated in the red zone of the coronavirus outbreak, on February 24.

MARCO SABADIN/AFP via Getty Images


On Tuesday, Conte warned against panic and defended the country’s response to the virus.

“Obviously I can’t say I’m not worried because I don’t want anyone to think we’re underestimating this emergency,” he said, according to the AP. “But we trust that with the measures we’ve implemented there will be a containing effect in the coming days.”

He also told La Repubblica that “we need to stop panic.” 

Empty carnivals, fashion shows, and soccer stadiums

The virus has prompted the cancelation of the annual Venice Carnival and the closing of some major landmarks.

The fashion house Giorgio Armani also held its runway show at Milan Fashion Week in an empty theater as a precaution.

Major soccer games have been played in empty stadiums, including the clash between the league leaders Juventus and Inter Milan on Sunday.

Photos show stores packed with shoppers and shelves rapidly emptying.

Coronavirus Italy empty stores

Empty shelves in a supermarket in Milan, Italy on February 23.

Luca Bruno/AP Photos


Neighboring countries are worried

Italy’s north has open borders with France, Austria, Switzerland, and Slovenia.

Italians or people who recently visited Italy have tested positive for the coronavirus in Algeria, Austria, Brazil, Croatia, Greece, Romania, Spain, and Switzerland, Reuters reported Wednesday.

Italy coronavirus

A couple on the subway at the Duomo underground station in Milan on February 25.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi


Matteo Salvini, the former deputy prime minister of the country who leads the far-right Northern League party, called for the country’s borders to be closed, but Conte dismissed the idea at a Saturday press conference.

“I don’t think the conditions for such a move exist at this point,” Conte said, according to Politico.

The European Union said on Monday that it was not considering any travel suspensions within the bloc’s border-free area, also known as the Schengen Area.

France warned anyone visiting the Lombardy and Veneto regions to wear face masks, regularly check their temperature, and avoid nonessential travel, the AP reported.

italy giuseppe conte government

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi


Officials in France and Austria are monitoring their borders for visitors from Italy who could be carrying the virus, according to the AP. Ireland has also advised its citizens not to travel to affected areas of Italy, and the UK told people to avoid “all but essential” travel to affected towns.

Romania’s health ministry on Sunday said all Romanian citizens coming back from Lombardy and Veneto would be quarantined for 14 days, Politico reported.

Austria temporarily halted rail traffic across its border with Italy on Sunday but later recommenced it.

Trains traveling out of the country from the north of Italy may also face delays and cancellations as train companies perform health checks, sanitize train carriages, and expect reduced demand for travel, La Repubblica reported.

Italy coronavirus

Tourists wear protective masks in Rome on January 31, 2020.

ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images


The EU urged coordination during the outbreak

The EU on Monday said it was monitoring the spread of the coronavirus “around the clock” and said it would spend 232 million euros, or $252 million, to try to prevent a global outbreak.

Stella Kyriakides, the EU’s Health Commissioner, told reporters Wednesday that EU countries have to have a coordinated response to tackling the virus.

“All member states need to inform us of their preparedness plans,” she said, according to Reuters. “Diverging approaches across the EU should be avoided.”

The coronavirus, thought to have originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has now infected more than 80,000 people and spread to at least 40 other countries, though most only have a handful of cases. 

France recorded its first death from the coronavirus on Wednesday, though authorities say they do not yet know how or where the person contracted the virus.

The World Health Organization warned over the weekend that the window of opportunity to contain the virus was narrowing.



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Why is Nordstrom Rack so cheap? Overstock, past seasons

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  • Nordstrom Rack is thriving even as its full-price store struggles to find its footing amid an uncertain retail climate.
  • During its most recent earnings call, Nordstrom reported eight consecutive quarters of sales growth for its off-price business, while its full-price department store posted declines. 
  • Here’s how Nordstrom Rack keeps its prices so low. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Since its humble beginnings in 1973 as a clearance center in the basement of a Seattle store, Nordstrom Rack has flourished into a go-to destination for discounted designer goods. 

Nearly 50 years later, Nordstrom Rack has nearly 250 total stores and serves as an integral piece of the Nordstrom business. In December, Nordstrom reported that its off-price companies — which also includes the e-commerce company, HauteLook — posted positive sales and increasing inventory turns for the eighth consecutive quarter. In the third quarter of 2019, off-price net sales grew by 1.2% while full-price declined by 4.1%. 

Discount retailers have been popular for decades, but they especially resonated with shoppers in the wake of the recession and continued to grow in subsequent years. Today traditional retailers are leaning on these models more than ever, and Nordstrom isn’t alone in finding solace in the world of off-price: Macy’s recently announced plans to expand Macy’s Backstage in response to growing demand for discounts. 

While Nordstrom Rack sources a significant amount of its inventory from overstock at its full-price store, it also produces some low-cost yet stylish items exclusively for the store.

Here’s a closer look at how Nordstrom Rack keeps its prices so low: 



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