How retail healthcare is driving practices to evolve

Retail-based healthcare is offering patients more options to address acute, and sometimes chronic, needs. Though walk-in clinics tend to excel in convenience, customer service and price transparency, experts worry that there could be medical consequences for patients who receive fragmented care from too many places.

To remain competitive and offer patients the best of both worlds, traditional health providers are increasingly adapting their ways, according to a recent article from the Boston Globe.

For some organizations, this strategy includes partnering with companies to build urgent care sites of their own, as Massachusetts' Partners HealthCare, Lahey Health, Steward Health Care System, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, UMass Memorial Health Care and others have done. In general, physicians and other healthcare workers staff the clinics.

Meanwhile, some groups, such as Newton-based Atrius Health, have gone another direction, and expanded night and weekend hours at some of their existing offices. In another tactic to make access easier for patients, Lowell General Hospital has moved some specialists from its city campus to suburban clinics.

Technology has also played a major role in physician practice updates. Organizations are not just exploring telehealth options to provide care remotely, but they're also making non-medical interactions easier. Atrius, for example, is rolling out software to let patients book appointments online, while Partners is working on a smartphone app that will allow patients to track their healthcare much like they monitor their bank accounts.

"This represents a huge paradigm shift in healthcare," Normand E. Deschene, chief executive of Wellforce, the parent company of Tufts Medical Center and Lowell General Hospital, told the newspaper. "The systems that are going to succeed are those that are going to embrace it because this is what the consumers want. Most industries follow what their consumers want. Healthcare should be no different."

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