Four Ways Healthcare Leaders Can Respond to The Retail Revolution

By Shelley Davis, MSN, RNC, CCM, VP of Clinical Strategy, Lightbeam Health Solutions
Twitter: @LightbeamHealth

The healthcare industry is undergoing an evolution towards retail service, driven in large part by the growing influence of consumers in the marketplace.

Young patients, particularly Millennials and Gen Zers, have largely moved away from the traditional care delivery model that has sustained healthcare for so long. Rather than having a primary care physician for years at a time, younger consumers are increasingly likely to look up immediate treatment options on their phones, utilize telehealth services, or go to a convenient urgent care location.

A Press Ganey survey released in November 2021 indicated that underlying consumer trends point to “a steady convergence between healthcare and retail behavior,” with patients “increasingly turning to digital resources like online reviews to inform and validate their decisions.”

This change in care delivery, further spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic, is likely to have a meaningful impact on the industry going forward. As healthcare becomes more consumer-oriented and convenient in its care delivery, organizations will have to adjust.

Below are four tips for healthcare leaders aiming to respond to the retail revolution in healthcare while collecting and storing patient data in an effective, responsible manner.

1. Partner with local, community organizations

With the rise of Minute Clinics at CVS and Community Clinics at Walgreens, healthcare is moving beyond the four walls of the hospital and out into the communities served by provider organizations.

While the prospect of competing against diversified corporations and nontraditional players can seem daunting, healthcare organizations should never feel like they are going about their business alone.

As the industry witnessed during the pandemic, there are ample opportunities to partner with local, community partners to deliver quality care inside retail locations. Hospitals don’t need to cede ground to competitors simply because they expect patients to go there for treatment.

Leaders should recognize the value and market possibilities of extending their reach beyond the campus and into the community. This can make treatment more accessible and convenient for consumers in a way that mirrors their expectations from the retail industry.

2. Invest in the patient experience

Given that patient experience and satisfaction continue to play a crucial role in quality ratings that affect value-based care arrangements, provider organizations must continue to prioritize delivering the best service possible.

Investing in the patient experience means ensuring that clinical processes are in place to reduce readmissions and improve outcomes, but can also apply to other aspects of the enterprise as well.

Look no further than price transparency, an undeniably important aspect of the patient experience. Healthcare organizations should address how treatment costs are being communicated to their patients and make sure that it’s in a consumer-friendly way. Simply printing off a chargemaster isn’t going to cut it for consumers who have grown accustomed to online shopping and other elements of the retail world.

In addition to bolstering quality and financial processes, innovation can be improved as well. Some provider organizations have launched deviceless remote patient monitoring (RPM) programs accessible for both elderly and non-tech-savvy members. These programs, which rely on an innovative, centralized model, allow workflows to expand so that more patients can be cared for in a timely and appropriate manner.

The results have been significant, with health systems recouping millions in savings and dramatically reducing emergency department visits. These all have meaningful impacts on the overall patient experience, good for those receiving care but also beneficial to organizations as a whole.

3. Leverage technology

Building on available technology and innovations marks a significant opportunity for both providers and patients. Telehealth has proven its effectiveness and popularity among patients and providers, but there’s still room for more. It’s not difficult to imagine a world where patients are able to log on to a health system website and learn about resources available to them.

This applies to so many different patient populations, including those who need assistance with prescription medication adherence, those undergoing smoking cessation treatment, or patients with diabetes who want access to support groups with shared experiences.

The ultimate goal of utilizing these technological features should be to put the right information in the patient’s hands. Many consumers currently consult Google for advice related to their health, but by utilizing technology,

Patients with chronic conditions or those in need of proactive treatment could act more quickly instead of only responding when things take a negative turn.

4. Ensure data is flowing back and forth

It’s critical for healthcare organizations to have data flowing back and forth to ensure they stay up to date with all the varied ongoing touchpoints.

The drive toward interoperability has long served as a goal for the industry, but enacting this change is non-negotiable. Streamlining the patient payment process as discussed earlier is necessary, but so is the constant flow of data that results from such interactions.

Data analytics should be incorporated as the bedrock of any well-meaning organization that is looking to evaluate how it is performing and what areas can be adjusted for greater efficiencies.

It’s important to note that none of these are perfect solutions to the ever-changing challenges facing the healthcare industry. Still, these approaches offer leaders a framework for positioning their organizations for greater success as healthcare takes on elements of the retail revolution.