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Dec 05, 2017

It’s happening. CVS is buying Aetna for $69 billion, which could make the deal the biggest merger of 2017. The Wall Street Journal alluded that the deal was proposed as a way to guard against the looming threat of Amazon entering the pharmacy business.

Is this a game changer? I’d say, “yes.” Mark Bertolini, Aetna’s Chief Executive Officer, described the merger as “creating a new front door for health care in America.” The deal comes as the industry is looking out over the horizon, seeing how Amazon could shake things up – even though Amazon’s plans have not been announced. 

There’s a lot of speculation from the industry about this deal. Will they be creating more customer touchpoints or vertical experiences? Will there be additional mergers? What is the future of brick and mortar stores? Instead of getting caught up in the unknown, at times like this, I like to keep my focus on what I CAN DO to improve MY business.

I’m sharing 3 lessons I learned as a Senior Manager at Amazon that will help you navigate the ambiguity by focusing on YOUR clients and business….

1. Obsess about the customer experience

Look around corners for ways to serve customers today and tomorrow. Being obsessed about the customer is the bold vision of Jeff Bezos. How is this being accomplished? At Amazon, we started with the customer and worked backward. We recognized a customer’s journey or needs and then developed our business plans to fit the needs. 

A key example is the 1-click buying that bypasses the checkout cart. As a consumer, we didn’t realize a long and laborious checkout process was optional. Amazon recognized how this would simplify a customer’s life. They worked vigorously to earn and keep customer trust by maintaining a secure, yet lightning fast checkout. At Amazon, I learned to pay attention to competitors, but obsess about customers. 

CHALLENGE: When is the last time you went step-by-step through your customers’ journey in your business? When did you last make a major change that improved your customer experience?

2. Be innovative on behalf of the customer

Do you notice a theme? This weekend while shopping I found a great sale on a piece of furniture, but was it really a sale? I opened up a search engine on my iPhone and quickly found my answer: it was $300 cheaper at 2 e-commerce sites. Innovation and technology are creating a major shift in all industries. It can either work for you or against you. 

Customers today expect and demand innovation to help their families find ways to simplify, get educated, and save money. Be externally aware, look for new ideas from everywhere. Examine your product and processes through innovative lenses to ensure you’re meeting your customer in this fast changing market place.

For example, at freshbenies, we’ve known the importance of educating and driving members to use our services. We received spotty utilization reporting from some of our service providers and spent hours compiling a rudimentary quarterly report. We knew our clients would appreciate more robust reporting and loved some dashboard report examples we saw in a random business training class. So, we “borrowed” the idea and launched a cloud-based, comprehensive Utilization Dashboard with on-demand report generation that all our clients have access to 24/7.  

CHALLENGE: What is the last innovative tech idea you implemented that helped your customer experience?


3. Speed matters

While Aetna and CVS have been partners since 2010, the emerging Amazon healthcare competition has catapulted Aetna to move quickly. This is a great lesson that companies of all sizes need to move with agility. More than any other time in history, consumers have greater access to expanded choices, information and innovation – all in the palm of their hand. Are you moving swiftly to provide them with services that will solve tomorrow’s problems?

Amazon moves fast because they strip out emotions - decisions are made based on customer data. They also aren’t afraid to fail. As employees, we weren’t afraid to bring new ideas to the table. If we did fail, there was no retribution and the learnings were used for other successful launches. For instance, the Amazon Fire Phone was a self-proclaimed miss, but Amazon is using some of the technology in their more successful products today. 

CHALLENGE: Examine your internal change process and timing. How can you tighten them to allow you to be more nimble? Are you allowing room for failure and learning from it for future success? 

The healthcare industry is ripe for disruption, innovation, a better end-user experience, transparency, technological advances, etc. The CVS-Aetna deal is just the beginning. 

Finally, I was recently interviewed about how Amazon and other non-healthcare companies look at healthcare. Click here to read the article, “Should Amazon Terrify the Healthcare Industry?”

Now it's your turn! What are you doing to prepare your business to not only succeed, but explode through these changes? Comment below or send me an email at

Tonia Degner

Tonia has been a leader in the retail and tech industries for 20+ years with a focus on driving vision and growth strategies in large volume business sectors. Her most recent experience includes Director positions at Amazon where she implemented complex company-wide enhancements, led the launch of innovative products, and created disruptive strategies. She joined freshbenies as Chief Strategy Officer because of her passion to provide practical tools that simplify the American healthcare experience.

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Tanya Boyd
Tanya Boyd
President of Tanya Boyd & Associates

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