The Rise of Retail Healthcare

As the co-founder, president and chief curator of content for NYC Health Business Leaders, I am often amazed by the level of insights our speakers provide.  I'm proud that we attract such stars. Such was the case in early June when we held a fascinating panel discussion on the rise of retail healthcare. The standing-room-only crowd demonstrated the immense interest in this topic and the implications for healthcare delivery. Retail health encompasses a wide range of services – pharmacy-based health clinics, urgent care centers, on-demand telemedicine, direct-to-consumer lab testing. At the core, it’s about giving consumers more control over of how, where and when they receive services.

Our speakers represented different parts of the health ecosystem:

  • Pharmacy: Brad Fluegel, SVP, Chief Strategy and Business Development Officer of Walgreens

  • Lab Testing: Dr. Jon Cohen, Chief Medical Officer of Quest Diagnostics

  • Urgent Care: Dr. Richard Park, CEO of CityMD

Our event moderator, Charles Boorady, General Partner of TT Capital Partners, is a healthcare veteran who has followed the industry for years as both a highly ranked Wall Street analyst and active investor. He spotted the trend early and noted his observations in this prescient article: A Glimpse at Healthcare’s Retail Future. As Charles wrote, “The intersection of healthcare and retail is rapidly moving off the white board and onto Main Street.”

Brad explained that Walgreens is looking for spaces where there’s a convergence of retail and healthcare, where services can be done quickly, inexpensively and conveniently. It will help drive the brand as well as prescription volume.

The Time is Right The concept of consumer-driven healthcare has been around for over two decades, but it is finally taking hold for three reasons:

  • high-deductible health plans;

  • the pervasiveness of technology, particularly mobile;

  • and the influence of Millennials now in their 20’s and 30’s.

Millennials are going to drive it. They’re different. They will not engage the healthcare system the way it used to be done. Dr. Richard Park CEO, CityMD

Mobile is Key As we experience conveniences and access made possible by mobile technology in other parts of our lives, we come to expect it everywhere, including healthcare. As Brad pointed out, “I suspect many of you would like to interact with your doctor by video chat on your smartphone or email or text.” Jon agreed:

When you link consumerism with mobile health, those two factors are what’s disrupting our current healthcare system. Dr. Jon Cohen Chief Medical Officer, Quest Diagnostics

On-Demand Care Must Become Part of the Care Continuum Charles pushed on the issue of care coordination: “What’s the downside of this shift towards instant access? Doesn’t it disconnect the patient from the primary care physician, the doctor who knows you and your family?”

Richard explained that many of the patients who walk into CityMD don’t have a PCP. “They’re coming in droves. These patients effectively are not getting preventative care. We focus on immediate treatment and getting them connected to ongoing care. We are experts in care coordination. Our job is to identify and notify.”

Brad confirmed that Walgreens is not interested in supplanting the doctor-patient relationship either.

What’s important is that retail health not be an island of care that’s separate and distinct from all of the other care that’s being delivered. Brad Fluegel SVP, Chief Strategy and Business Development Officer, Walgreens

Patient engagement has a long way to go All agreed that ultimate success of consumerism lies with patients themselves. While many are working to tackle patient engagement, there’s still a long way to go. We need to help people make healthy choices, which is notoriously difficult to do. Brad suggested retailers were in a good position to help in this respect, because they are experts at using data to help people with decision-making.

More on the topic

I wrote an Executive Briefing on Retail Health based on the discussion. It's really for members of NYCHBL but since you were smart enough to visit my site, please downloadit.

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