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12 Ways to Compete with Retail Healthcare

by Chris Cousins, MBA

Walk-in clinics located in retail stores or pharmacies — sometimes known as “medtail” — is fast becoming nationwide and enticing to patients. “Healthcare is retail’s next frontier,” says Insider Intelligence. “As consumers grow frustrated with traditional healthcare providers, retailers have an opportunity to offer less expensive, more accessible healthcare options.

Last year, CVS announced an $8B plan to acquire Signify Health, with its 10,000 clinicians across 50 states. And VillageMD (majority-owned by Walgreens) acquired Summit Health-CityMD in an $8B+ deal, creating one of the largest independent provider groups in the U.S. “This is an epic milestone in our journey to transform healthcare in the United States,” said Tim Barry, CEO of VillageMD, in a company statement.

Medtail is coming after your patients, but is it good for them?

Retail healthcare is poised to lure your patients away, and it’s not necessarily in their best interest or yours. When you lose patients to these retail clinics, continuity of care goes out the window, threatening the chance at true value-based care.

More than 70 percent of healthcare leaders globally believe the quality of care in retail settings is lower than in primary care practices, according to a recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). Those surveyed were also concerned about the ability to track patients in retail settings.

Medtail providers may not have every patient’s medical record on file unless they are affiliated with the patient’s primary care physician. And, complicated chronic conditions or vulnerable populations, like seniors or children, may need more specialized care than is commonly provided by a nurse practitioner or physician assistant working in these settings.

A report from the American College of Physicians says retail clinics are fine for a short-term illness or as a backup when patients can’t see their doctor. However, they should not replace a long-term relationship with a primary care physician. The fragmentation of services can sometimes lead to misdiagnoses, repetitive tests, and a general strain on healthcare’s bottom line.

Patients like retail healthcare

But patients don’t seem to prioritize the downsides to retail settings. Two-thirds of the people surveyed in the NEJM study said the pandemic had improved patient views on retail clinics, Becker’s Hospital Review reports. The same share also said medtail improves access to care for vulnerable populations.

How clinics can thrive despite the expansion of retail health clinics

Primary care providers have been the cornerstone of community healthcare for years, but now that is no longer a given. Patients are voting with their feet and their wallets. It’s imperative you make some changes to attract and retain patients in this highly consumer-based market.

Here is our list of a dozen winning patient-attracting and patient-retaining strategies to help:

1. Start with creating a 360-degree patient experience.

Understand and prioritize your patients’ needs. It’s not just a courtesy—it's a necessity. Patients base their choice in healthcare providers on more than just medical expertise. They want a holistic experience where they feel valued, heard, and cared for.

2. Provide a welcoming atmosphere.

First impressions matter. Well-lit spaces, comfortable seating, and friendly staff can significantly enhance a patient's overall experience. Go out of your way to greet patients and manage long wait times.

3. Craft compelling marketing strategies.

Leverage digital ad campaigns to target specific demographics, raise awareness about your services, and communicate how your practice is preferable to retail health retail health.

4. Build a lasting reputation.

The voice of a satisfied patient can travel far. Engaging with your patients through feedback, testimonials, and surveys demonstrates that you value their opinions and are committed to improving services.

5. Monitor your patients’ health.

Routine health check-ups and monitoring are vital. Offering these services ensures patient well-being and indicates you have a proactive approach to your patients’ health.

6. Foster local community bonds.

By hosting health fairs, wellness workshops, or free health check-up events, you can showcase your commitment to community wellness—building trust and rapport.

7. Reward patient loyalty.

Introduce loyalty programs or discounts to incentivize patients to return. Offering discounts on additional services or a loyalty card that accrues points with every visit can go a long way to making your patients feel valued and appreciated.

8. Invest in advanced care technology.

By investing in advanced diagnostic tools and equipment, you ensure accurate and timely diagnoses, leading to effective treatments. This boosts your clinic's reputation and assures your patients they are receiving state-of-the-art care.

9. Prioritize staff excellence.

Quality of care is directly proportional to the quality of the healthcare staff. Continuous staff training and development ensures they are up to date with the latest medical practices, technologies, and patient care techniques.

10. Streamline the billing experience.

Gather pre-visit data as well as verification at check-in. Find ways to modernize and digitize the billing experience for patients. For example, use real-time eligibility discovery and verification; out-of-pocket estimators to determine a patient’s financial responsibility and provide mobile payment capabilities, for your patients’ convenience.

11. Provide alternatives to in-office visits.

Offering telemedicine or online consultations can be a game-changer for those patients who might find it challenging to visit in person. Additionally, extended clinic hours or weekend appointments ensure that healthcare doesn't take a back seat because of time constraints.

12. Address no-shows.

Missed appointments can disrupt your clinic's workflow and impact revenue. WhiteSpace Health's platform can help. By reducing patient no-shows and late cancellations, you can optimize your schedule, and ensure that your patients benefit from a streamlined system.

Check out how WhiteSpace Health’s platform can help you harness the power of AI, transforming data into dollars and enhancing your financial performance.

About Chris Cousins

Chris Cousins, MBA

Chris Cousins is a results-driven healthcare executive with an extensive background steeped in operations, physician revenue cycle, health information technology (HIT) cloud-based services, and relationship development across Integrated Health Systems. 30 years of leadership experience focuses on the revenue cycle and operations across many large recognizable health care brands.