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Patient to Consumer: The Retail Clinic Experience

Patients today behave more like the typical consumer – actively seeking information, comparing various care options, and being conscious of certain accumulating costs. Instead of relying on a single physician or provider to instruct them on care, individuals are now taking more responsibility for their health to prevent illnesses instead of simply treating them. From telemedicine to mobile apps and health “wearables,” access to nontraditional healthcare is on the rise.

Enter the retail clinic, a healthcare setting quickly disrupting the industry by delivering value, choice, and flexibility to meet customers’ needs. Often referred to as convenient care clinics, these areas were initially designed to offer vaccines and treatment for minor acute illnesses such as bronchitis, sinus infections, and allergies. With no required appointments and shorter wait times, retail clinics provide patients a level of convenience that parallels aspects of their fast-paced lifestyle.

Power of Retail

By understanding industry trends, retail clinics can expand their scope of services beyond treating acute illnesses to compete with traditional providers. According to a survey conducted by PwC Health Research Institute, individuals are comfortable seeking routine care in nontraditional settings if it means reducing costs and minimizing travel time. Among all the survey participants, 61 percent indicated that they would be likely to use an at-home strep test purchased at a retail store, in addition to the 65 percent likely to get flu shots or annual checkups at a retail clinic. As the landscape continues to become more patient-centric, retailers and providers alike must recognize the diverse needs of individuals and adjust accordingly.

Convenient care clinics have access to a deeper understanding of consumer behavior and purchase patterns due to their affiliation with retailers. The level of convenience surpasses simply providing additional hours, as more clinics start to build a social media presence, implement online scheduling, and allow patients to pay bills online. Adding more services creates an opportunity for these retail providers to build patient loyalty through rewards and other incentives, including discounted subscription plans or points toward an upcoming visit.

Upcoming Challenges

Nontraditional healthcare settings are becoming more popular among patients; however, they face emerging challenges and opposition from physicians. Although retail clinics provide cheaper and faster care, they are unable to conduct in-depth examinations or treat chronic diseases. In addition, patients are less likely to establish long-term relationships with these healthcare professionals, which prevents them from receiving more comprehensive care. Physicians are also concerned with fragmenting health records, which can harm patients due to miscommunication between the retail clinic and the patient’s primary care physician.

Current retailers and pharmacies with in-house clinics include Kroger, Walgreens, Target, and more. Other major retailers will attempt to adopt similar models after seeing the success from existing locations, but how they can expand their services and health offerings remains unclear. Although independent primary care practices may oppose retail clinics behaving as full-service health facilities, these traditional settings will feel the pressure to improve overall patient experience. Along with implementing new technologies and processes, existing providers can strive to offer personalized and relationship-based care.

Retail Clinics: Next Steps

On the surface, retail clinics help patients receive care that is low cost, convenient, and easily accessible. However, retailers face obstacles in maintaining relationships and effectively communicating a patient’s medical information to their respective primary care physicians. Individuals today are empowered to make their own decisions regarding their health, but with the help from healthcare professionals, they can be guided and incentivized to make the right decisions. Whether through a traditional provider, retail clinic, or even a mobile app, it is vital to create seamless and customized patient experiences that is on pace with the demands of everyday life.

Sources: PwC Health Research Institute, Becker’s Hospital Review, Forbes