Consumers' growing comfort with retail health could prove critical to vaccine effort: J.D. Power

A growing number of Americans are turning to retail pharmacies for health and wellness services, which could make their role in the COVID-19 vaccine distribution even more crucial, according to a new study.

Research published by J.D. Power finds that close to half (48%) of retail pharmacy customers used at least one health and wellness service at the pharmacy last year, up from 43% in 2019.

The J.D. Power analysts found that when customers used two or more health services while at the pharmacy, their satisfaction and brand advocacy increases and their spending doubles. Net Promoter Scores were 13 points higher for customers who used health and wellness services.

In addition,1 in 5 patients spoke with their pharmacist during a visit about their care, up from 16% of patients in 2018 and 2019, the study found. 

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The analysis is based on survey responses from more than 9,000 retail pharmacy customers reported between September 2019 and May 2020.

Retail pharmacies are set to play a central role in distributing and administering vaccines for COVID-19. Earlier this month, the Biden administration began shipping vaccines directly to pharmacies, and these retailers are expecting to vaccinate people at a high rate once the vaccines are widely available.

CVS Health, for example, has consistently estimated that it can vaccinate between 20 million and 25 million people per month once vaccines are broadly available.

J.D. Power's analysts said the growing comfort consumers have with receiving health services at retail locations that was highlighted in its survey could prove critical to getting more hesitant Americans vaccinated.

"The ability to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in a place that carries inherent familiarity and comfort could help overcome some vaccine hesitancy," the researchers wrote. "And that may be enough to finally put COVID-19 in the rearview mirror."

There is still work to be done, however, according to the report. While consumers are increasingly turning to retail pharmacies for health and wellness services, half of the market is still up for grabs, the study found.

Continuing to grow that reach has positive financial implications for pharmacies beyond the pandemic scenario and can enhance their effectiveness as vaccine distributors, the analysts said.

"It’s clear that pharmacies have uncovered a way to directly affect their customers’ health and wellness, while creating a more inviting, and ultimately, satisfying customer experience," the analysts wrote. "Not only does this have the potential to positively influence both population health and local business, it could also help the country rise to meet the greatest need in a generation."

"Contrasted against filing into a massive, unfamiliar college campus, it’s no wonder why the Biden administration thinks it can make meaningful vaccination gains by putting these doses directly into the community," they said.