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CVS to open tech hub in Boston

100-person staff’s focus is customers

Rhode Island-based CVS Health Corp., operator of MinuteClinics and the country’s second-biggest drugstore chain, plans to open a technology development center in Boston this winter.

Chief digital officer Brian Tilzer said the CVS Health Digital Innovation Lab will accommodate about 100 people, some of whom will move from CVS headquarters in Woonsocket and some of whom will be new hires.

“We may not hire all 100 next year, but we’re going to hire a lot,” Tilzer said. The lab’s focus will be on “building customer-centric experiences in health care.”

Since Tilzer arrived at the company from Staples Inc. early last year, he said, CVS has embarked on a wide-scale effort to embrace digital media.


The company has tripled its investment in related technologies, for example, tested videoconferencing with doctors in some of its MinuteClinics, and communicated via text messages with customers about their prescriptions.

The goal, Tilzer said, is to create a “seamless experience” whether the customer is interacting with the company on the Web, via a mobile phone, or in one of its 7,800 stores.

Tilzer said “seamless” will soon entail delivering all those offers on CVS’s notoriously long receipts straight to smartphones.

Earlier this year, the company announced it would begin sharing electronic health record information on patient visits and prescriptions with Lahey Health in Burlington, Baystate Health in Springfield, and other providers.

As CVS continued to explore what Tilzer called the “digital enablement of health care,” he decided a location in Boston would make sense.

Its new 15,000-square-foot office, at 116 Huntington Ave., will be a short distance from both Longwood Medical Area and Cambridge’s technology community.

Having a Boston presence, Tilzer said, “will help us attract additional talent and increase our connectivity to those communities.”

Tilzer, formerly Staples’ head of e-commerce, will spend time at the new office, which will be staffed with developers, product managers, digital strategists, and user- experience designers.


One goal, he added, is to connect with start-ups that are developing health care-related products and services. “We can be an ideal learning lab for early-stage companies,” he said.

Tilzer said CVS has another interesting project in the works: “lab stores” in Boston, New York City, and Menlo Park, Calif., that are scheduled to open next year.

As CVS develops its own technologies or collaborates with outside partners, the lab stores will provide a “live environment” to help the company “explore whether they can be meaningful,” Tilzer said.

CVS Health ranks 12th on the 2014 Fortune 500 list. It reported $127 billion in revenue in 2013.

Scott Kirsner can be reached at kirsner@pobox.com. Follow him on Twitter @ScottKirsner and on betaboston.com.