Want to know the worst-kept secret on Wall Street? Stocks that pay growing dividends outperform ones that don't distribute profits, by a mile.

From 1973 through 2021, stocks that grew or initiated a dividend returned 10.7% annually on average. Stocks that didn't pay a dividend returned a paltry 4.8% over the same time frame, according to Hartford Funds and Ned Davis Research.

Now, just because a stock pays a dividend doesn't necessarily mean it can increase distributions at a satisfactory pace. These two stocks stand out because they have rapidly raised their payouts in recent years, and they appear poised to do it again.  

Abbott Laboratories

Abbott Laboratories (ABT 0.04%) is a diversified healthcare conglomerate that offers a 1.9% dividend yield. Last December, the company declared its 51st consecutive annual dividend raise.

Despite a long history of annual dividend raises, this major healthcare company has been able to grow its payout a whopping 264% over the past decade.

Its diagnostics business grew by leaps and bounds in the early days of the pandemic thanks to soaring demand for COVID-19 tests. But rapidly subsiding demand for COVID testing caused Abbott's total revenue stream to contract in 2022.

If investors look past Abbott's short-term pandemic-related challenges, they'll see a handful of important new growth drivers that could more than make up the difference.

For example, the company's spinal cord stimulation device recently earned Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to treat painful diabetic nerve damage, a condition around half of diabetes patients experience within 25 years of developing the condition.

Earlier this month, Abbott also received FDA approval for its next-generation aortic valve replacement device, Navitor. Its share of the aortic valve market is just a tiny sliver compared to Edwards Lifesciences and Medtronic. But Navitor's recent approval and incoming clinical-trial data from an ongoing study could make it a major growth driver in the years ahead.

CVS Health

CVS Health (CVS 1.36%) is a healthcare conglomerate that offers a 2.8% yield at recent prices. The company has raised its payout an impressive 169% over the past decade, but it doesn't show up on many dividend growth screens because it paused payout raises from 2017 through 2021.

Dividend growth investors should know that CVS Health paused its payout to complete a $69 billion acquisition of Aetna, a major manager of health insurance benefits that collects monthly premiums from around 35 million people. CVS also owns a pharmacy benefits management business that has around 110 million plan members.

Rather than rely on relatively unpredictable retail operations, CVS Health has leveraged its enormous physical footprint to become a major player in the primary-care space. Pharmaceutical companies get a lot of attention for high prices, but savvy healthcare investors know that primary-care providers are responsible for a much larger portion of the roughly $4.3 trillion America spends on healthcare annually.

With roughly 1,100 medical clinics and over 9,000 retail pharmacies, CVS Health can provide many of the health benefits it also gets paid to manage. The planned acquisition of Signify Health for $8 billion will add a network of more than 10,000 clinicians across all 50 states to CVS Health's growing army of primary-care providers.

Providing healthcare benefits that it also gets paid to manage is an incredibly lucrative position to be in, as shown by CVS Health's performance following the Aetna acquisition. Over the past five years, the amount of free cash flow that its operations generate has quadrupled to $19.5 billion annually. 

Over the past 12 months, CVS Heath met its dividend commitment using just 14.6% of the free cash flow it generated. That means the company can easily afford to make big payout bumps over the next several years. Investors who buy this stock in February and simply hold it have an excellent chance to come out ahead over the long run.