Posted By Mercury Healthcare (formerly Healthgrades) on 10/05/2020

The Future of Retail Healthcare Will Disrupt Traditional Care

The Future of Retail Healthcare Will Disrupt Traditional Care

If there’s any industry that’s gone through a massive transformation in recent years, it’s healthcare. Already the industry has seen tectonic shifts in policy, innovation, and cost reduction – and that’s only the beginning. Today’s patients are demanding a higher standard from health systems. 

Many customers want their healthcare provider to emulate other consumer-facing industries. They expect an emphasis on convenience, patient satisfaction, transparent pricing, and prompt service. This has led health systems to begin to study one industry that sets the standard in this customer-centric philosophy: Retail.

What marketing tactics can health systems borrow from retail?

Think of how far retailers have come over the decades. Prior to the 1990s, most retailers in the United States were primarily brick-and-mortar. However, as soon as the internet became mainstream, they had to begin competing on a global scale. Retailers quickly realized that the only way to stay afloat was to adopt a customer-centric approach that provided exemplary service before, during, and after the point-of-sale.

The healthcare industry is experiencing a similar upheaval as customers have more choice in how they receive care. At the same time, 79% of patients are dissatisfied with the cost of healthcare. Health systems need to listen to these pleas and improve price transparency.

Like retail, the healthcare industry is now on the hook to provide increasingly patient-centric care to meet customer expectations. According to McKinsey, this shift may look like:

  • Accelerating the move to outpatient care

  • Implementing convenient, geographically distributed care centers

  • Low cost delivery to make care accessible

  • Capabilities that will scale with developing markets

These dramatic changes are already underway, and health systems need to keep pace if they wish to remain competitive in this changing landscape. They need to closely examine what their retail counterparts are doing and begin acting today.

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Why health systems must adapt to retail healthcare

The modern healthcare environment is vastly different than the one of yesteryear. Today, patients have a plethora of ways to receive care – they can go to a doctor's office, visit urgent care centers, retail clinics, or virtually consult with their doctor via telehealth technologies. With so many choices available, customers are rethinking the way that they seek care. In fact, those consumers who search for a provider on are 36% more likely to select a provider with telehealth options.

There is no question that health systems need to adapt to these changes or risk falling to the wayside. Retailers like CVS are expanding their healthcare offerings to be more accessible than ever, turning their ubiquitous pharmacies into HealthHubs that offer affordable and accessible health services. If anything is beyond their widening scope of care, they are more than happy to refer patients to one of their preferred physicians.

At the same time, Walmart, a retailer that brings in millions of shoppers every day, is moving into the insurance business while opening clinics within their stores. They’ve announced they’ll open at least 16 next year (on top of the expected nine this year). These clinics emphasize low-cost care and convenience of location. They offer a wide range of inexpensive services, including $30 annual checkups for uninsured customers. This stands in contrast to conventional health systems, who charge uninsured patients an average of $199 for their annual physical. Health systems urgently need to start adapting to this new, retail healthcare landscape.

The bottom line is that the hospital systems need to provide patients with a great experience and high-quality care while making their services convenient and accessible - and they need to act fast. A recent survey reported that 79% of customers that used retail health clinics found the experience was the “same or better” than a traditional site. Let’s take a look at a few of the ways that health systems can jump-start their consumer-focused approach to care.

Create more impactful patient experiences

There is an opportunity to create better patient experiences by improving communication between patients and providers, and deepening relationships between both parties. Health systems need to reference the level of customer engagement that retailers provide and strive to give their patients an even better experience.

Picture, for one moment, a brick-and-mortar retail store that thousands of customers enter every day. They consciously decide to enter the store so they can purchase a few items, but in reality, the psychology that motivated them to choose that store was far more complex. 

They were brought into the shop using a combination of marketing tactics that exist on the backend of the organization, such as advertising, in-store merchandising, reputation management, and more. 

For retailers, the goal of these initiatives is to convince customers that their store has all the products customers will need, at the right price. At each of these touchpoints, the customer’s perception of the services is a top priority.

Now, imagine a hospital as that store. Under this retail model, health systems offer the care provided by a physician instead of physical products. To convince customers that their health system charges an appropriate price for a high standard of care, they will need a close alignment between sales, marketing, and customer service. 

For example, a contact center agent should use patient information contained in their health system’s CRM to improve the quality of interaction between the representative and patient. They could use the system to view physician specialty information, preferences on appointment availability, and previous referral interactions to coach the caller into engaging with the right provider. This will leave the patient with a positive impression of the hospital before ever even stepping inside.

After the procedure, another contact center agent will pick up where the previous agent left off. She will make sure that the patient had a pleasant experience and point him to additional materials to help him manage his condition when necessary. Over time, this patient will continue to receive educational materials and invitations to relevant seminars from marketing efforts, all relying on the same 360-degree consumer and household profile.

The idea is to use the retail model to connect multiple, disparate patient experiences that occur over an extended period, resulting in a unified patient experience. Being there for patients throughout their entire journey allows health systems to drive the kind of patient engagement that will lead to proactive health and increased loyalty over the long term.

Meet rising patient expectations and technology advancements

It’s no secret that today’s healthcare consumers are smarter and more informed about their health than ever before. The data speaks for itself: A recent study found that 99.1% of patients seek health information online on a consistent basis.

To compound the issue, a recent study from Accenture found that 24% of Gen Z listed convenience as the most important aspect of choosing a provider. To that end, proactive healthcare organizations must cater to the increasingly prevalent “anywhere, anytime” mentality amongst consumers.

This leaves providers with a question: How can they appeal to consumers that research their own health and crave convenience?

Many health systems are refining their websites and physician listings to ensure that these informed customers see their health system before the competition. This includes publishing content regarding common health concerns and showcasing physician expertise. From there, consumers can find the physician that best suits their needs, find nearby clinics, and learn about upcoming events at the health system. Even new patients can self-schedule appointments online for certain procedures and time blocks, as determined by individual providers.

However, don’t expect customers to seek out a health system – providers need to go where the customers are. This includes managing physician listings on third-party websites and deriving insights from common customer reviews. Managing an online presence across sites like Google,, Yelp, Bing, and Facebook ensures provider listings are highly visible and convenient to access for patients who are actively looking for a physician.

Final thoughts

Given today’s consumer-focused healthcare landscape, health systems and hospitals need to undertake more innovative approaches to patient care to remain top of mind in an increasingly competitive market.

They must find new ways to improve engagement between patients and providers by borrowing from successful retail models. This will help them succeed in a patient-centric care environment and drive proactive health and outreach in the long term.

Gary Druckenmiller
Senior Vice President, Strategy & Innovation

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