Embrace retail clinic strategies to succeed with consumer-driven healthcare

Hospitals can learn from CVS and Walgreen's retail drugstores when it comes to competing in a consumer-driven healthcare environment, according to a commentary published Wednesday in Becker's Hospital Review.

"While hospitals and health systems are recognizing a market shift, traditional providers need to upend their thinking about how healthcare decisions are made," writes Julia Brady, MBA, principal of Perceptive Strategies consultancy.

Walgreen's and CVS have successfully moved into the primary market and are expanding to provide chronic and specialty care, Brady writes. Hospital leaders can benefit from shifting to similar market-focused strategies, including:

  • Adopting best practices from outside the healthcare sector. The drugstores recognized that consumers recognize certain primary-care services as commodities driven by convenience and ease of access, taking lessons from the airline industry to keep patients apprised of their place in line.

  • Repackaging clinical information to solve patients' problems. Viewing the decision process from the consumer's perspective better positions hospitals to compete in clinical areas where consumers increasingly are making choices.

  • Engaging patients when they're shopping for a healthcare partner, recognizing patients are "buying relationships as much as they buy the service." Strategies include humanizing the care team, much as big banks now offer personal services.

Healthcare payers already put such strategies into place.

Aetna recently looked to Wal-Mart to fill a key consumer-facing executive role, Healthcare Finance News reported. Humana raided a senior executive from Target, and WellPoint turned to Coca-Cola.

With massive health insurance reform in play, engaging with consumers is key, according to a white paper from Infosys Public Services. For payers, that means demonstrating the value of their products and helping them make informed choices--strategies similar to what Brady says hospitals should consider.

To learn more:
- Read Brady's commentary

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