Early in her life, Karen Lynch was exposed to the healthcare system in the US.
When Lynch was 12, her mother killed herself. Later, her aunt, who was caring for Lynch and her siblings, was found to have lung and breast cancers and ultimately died from the conditions.
“When you have those personal events happen reasonably early in your life, I had that mission and passion to be able to help transform how people transform healthcare,” Lynch, now 56, told Business Insider.
Lynch is now the president of Aetna, the health insurer that recently merged with CVS Health. She says she still draws on those experiences as she looks to transform healthcare.
Lynch started her career as a certified public accountant, which gave her a broad overview of the business world. She went on to spend much of her career at Cigna before working as an executive at Magellan Health Services, tapping into other aspects of the healthcare system including radiology and pharmacy.
She joined Aetna in 2012, leading the company’s specialty products division and rising through the ranks before becoming president in 2015. After the combination with CVS, Lynch is now leading the Aetna business in place of former CEO Mark Bertolini.
Bertolini seems sure that Lynch will go far as part of the newly merged company.
“She has every opportunity to run that company one day,” Bertolini told Business Insider’s Rich Feloni, referring to CVS, “and I think she can do it, and I’m going to support her in trying to achieve that.”
Lynch sees the combination of a health insurer with a company that operates 9,800 retail pharmacies benefitting Aetna insurance customers for a number of reasons:
- By linking up members to doctors in their communities, should members come in to a CVS MinuteClinic for an appointment who don’t have a go-to primary-care doctor.
- By helping members stay adherent to their medications, with the hope that it can keep them healthier.
- By better linking its members to resources that also can affect their health, such as connecting a senior member who may not be eating to nonprofits like Meals on Wheels that deliver meals.
- By connecting members to behavioral health services, an aspect that’s a passion of Lynch’s. “As a combined company we can understand where people are,” Lynch said. “We can access resources in the local community to make sure we’re connecting to the right resources so they are taking care of the mind in addition to their bodies.”
She sees her role in transforming healthcare as finding ways to meet people where they are, whether that’s in a CVS store in their communities, in their homes, or via technology.
Lynch said she’s inspired by the work Amazon had done with its Amazon Go stores and was imagining ways CVS could apply similar concepts to help patients better manage their health.
Amazon has set up Amazon Go stores in some US cities. The stores have one major difference from a typical convenience store: They are cashierless. That means shoppers scan in through an app, and Amazon can monitor which goods the shoppers pick up in the store. On the way out, Amazon charges the shoppers for what they grabbed.
“Imagine what’s possible in the healthcare industry,” Lynch said.
For instance, a member who enters a CVS might be prompted to get a flu shot, told a prescription’s available for pickup, or encouraged not to buy a candy bar.
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