Is Retail Medicine Taking Over the Healthcare Industry?
In an era of instant gratification, the healthcare industry is looking a lot different these days. Just 20 years ago, if you were sick, you had to make an appointment with your primary care physician or, if your doctor’s office was closed, go to an ED or urgent care. Over the years, however, consumers have made it clear that they want convenience above all. And retail giants (including Amazon’s recent $3.9 billion acquisition of One Medical) are answering the call, offering primary care solutions both easily accessible and tailored to meet specific needs. What’s a health system to do?
Here are 4 ways primary care service lines can combat the influx of retail health options.
1. Make Patient Care More Accessible
This is most likely an unpopular opinion for already overworked health professionals. But part of the reason retail health has become so popular is that, instead of only being open until 4 or 5:00 in the afternoon like a doctor’s office might, these health clinics are open as late as the retailer, sometimes until 9 or 10:00 in the evening. By offering extended hours once or twice a week, a set day for walk-ins, Saturday morning hours, or on-demand telehealth, primary care providers can meet the patients where (or in this case, when) they are needed.
2. Think Like a Retailer
First, there were the beautiful window displays. Then the ultrathick store catalogs children would pore over at Christmas. Then flashy commercials. Then online shopping. Retailers have known all along that people are finicky and will switch to the competition if they offer something better. To combat that, they have had to constantly evolve their business models to meet the changing needs of the consumer. Health systems must follow suit. With all the available choices, consumers have their pick of healthcare options and don’t necessarily have to/want to go to a stuffy doctor’s office. The good news is that a coat of paint goes a long way. By providing an aesthetically-pleasing waiting room with certain amenities and shorter wait times, consumers are more apt to choose somewhere they feel good (or at least don’t dread) going to.
3. Focus on Relationships
For years, primary care has always been about building relationships with patients. As the doctor they see the most often, patients expect their primary care physician to know everything about them, whether it’s about a chronic condition, family history, or even knowledge of a fear of needles. In the end, it’s all about the patient experience. Rather than focusing on the “transaction”, as a retailer might, primary care physicians have the unique advantage of being able to focus on the patient, whether it’s through quality care, ongoing education, personal connections, or community engagement.
4. Position Yourselves in the Market
Not every organization can be all things to all people (not even Wal-Mart). That’s why businesses, non-profit organizations, and even health systems need a unique value prop—the specific value your organization brings to the end-user, differentiating you from the competition. With retail health, it might be convenience. What might primary care service lines bring? Is it telehealth? Is it quality care from someone who knows you? Find what separates your health system from the Amazons of the world and market yourselves that way.
Want to learn more about the impact of retail health on the primary care service line? Join us at the 2022 SHSMD Connections conference, taking place September 11-14, 2022, both virtual and in-person in Washington D.C.!