Mobile healthcare, telemedicine, telehealth, BYOD

Retail Clinics Are Forcing Providers to Be Creative

A new survey finds that consumers are flocking to non-traditional healthcare settings- but not necessarily for 'medical' reasons.

- A new survey finds that retail clinics and other non-traditional healthcare settings are growing popular with consumers, but primarily for health and wellness services. For so-called “medical issues,” the setting of choice is still the hospital or doctor’s office.

The study, by global consulting firm Oliver Wyman, finds that healthcare providers need to pick and choose carefully what they want to offer in these clinics, or risk alienating their patients. The demise of the HealthSpot kiosk offers a stark example of what could happen if a provider misjudges the retail market.

“This has tremendous implications for the entire healthcare industry,” Graegar Smith, a principal in Oliver Wyman’s Health & Life Sciences Practice and lead author of the report, said in a release accompanying the 16-page report. “Providing a better care experience in more convenient settings, like a local retailer or a person’s own living room, can boost patient engagement, and that can lead to higher satisfaction and better health. But if the ‘new front door’ isn’t designed and executed correctly, we could actually see costs rise and consumer experience decline.”

For example, the survey of more than 2,000 consumers found that some 70 percent are now familiar with the retail clinic concept, and a quarter have visited such a clinic – an 11 percent increase over the previous survey in 2013. However, 17 percent said they’d never use such a clinic, 12 percent said wouldn’t use one for a “medical” need, and 32 percent said they’d only visit one if it were affiliated with a local provider or their own doctor.

Among the reasons given for not visiting a retail clinic, close to 60 percent said they wouldn’t feel comfortable receiving medical care outside a doctor’s office or hospital, and another 35 percent said they didn’t trust retail settings as a place to receive medical care.

Some survey respondents went even further in their opinion of retail clinic settings. Some 20 percent of those surveyed said they were fine with visiting such a clinic in a pharmacy, but they wouldn’t go to a clinic in a discount retailer or grocery store.

“Drug stores are more associated with health and wellness, in my opinion,” one survey respondent said. “I feel comfortable going to those stores for medical needs like prescriptions and medicine.”

The key to the success of retail clinics – and Oliver Wyman analysts say this could easily be a $200 billion industry in the near future – lies in the ‘health and wellness’ market. Healthcare providers and payers have so far used “fairly narrow, clinically scoped business models,” the study says, and need to “venture into new business models that either extend clinical capabilities or begin to treat more of the ‘whole’ consumer (via a full array of health and wellness services).”

Those new business models will likely need to adopt new definitions of value as well. Providers, by and large, haven’t hit on a sustainable ROI for health and wellness, and many are still trying to connect the dots between consumer engagement and clinical outcomes.

Oliver Wyman notes the “changing landscape” that’s prompting retailers and healthcare providers to explore different paths. Walmart is developing wholly owned and operated primary care clinics, while Walgreens and Rite Aid are partnering with health systems and Target has abandoned its pharmacies and clinics in favor of “a better-living business model.” In addition, several health systems are piloting their own “convenience access points.”

Still, according to the Oliver Wyman survey, some 80 percent of consumers who visited a retail clinic found the experience to be as good as or better than a visit to the doctor’s office. So the consumer engagement hook is there.

“Despite these reservations and preferences, there is a marked shift in consumers’ willingness to use alternative sites. Consequently, we expect their use of alternative sites is going to continue to grow,” the survey reported. “Already, consumers are as willing to receive advice on diet/nutrition and fitness/wellbeing at alternative sites as they are at a traditional location. These findings indicate consumers are ready for the new front door.”

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