Patients have been begging for affordability for decades, and the healthcare industry’s reluctance to innovate and adapt to patient demands has left a door open for retailers to move into the healthcare business. I believe this will be great for healthcare, but potentially disastrous for health systems.
As retailers like Walmart, Amazon, and Best Buy have forayed into the healthcare space, they have done so with a focus on inexpensive, reliable products with a strong emphasis on well care and prevention.
In line with their corporate mission to “save people money so they can live better,” Walmart has created a “healthcare supercenter” that offers the basic needs for patient health: primary care, dental, behavioral health, x-rays, optometry, audiology and pharmacy. Their pricing model seeks to reduce overall healthcare costs for the consumer, made possible in part by their low administrative costs due to customers paying cash without having to negotiate with insurance companies.
Tech retail giant Best Buy created a “laser-focused strategy on digital health initiatives, moving from selling devices to adding analytics and services to help seniors age in place offering healthcare services in the home,” according to a recent Forbes article.
Retailers entering into the healthcare space having a different business focus than hospitals and health systems. They make money, not from illness or sick care, but only if their employees and customers are healthy. This is creating the right incentives for patients and retailers alike, and will continue to reduce their customers’ healthcare costs in the future, putting hospitals on notice.
“Business” is often considered a dirty word in healthcare, but if health systems are going to have a role in shaping the industry as it continues to evolve, it’s time to evaluate our work through a business lens.