How Hospitals Can Compete With Retail Medicine

CVS and Costco are offering much more than flu shots.

As retail chains expand the health services they provide customers, traditional health systems are looking to them less as competition and more as models for what today’s patients expect in their health care.

“The problem is not keeping up with retail providers,” said Peter Knox, executive vice president and chief learning and innovation officer at Bellin Health, an integrated health system based in Wisconsin. “The problem we’re trying to solve is keeping up with the changing expectations, requirements and needs of consumers.”

Bellin Health, he continued, starts by identifying what patients want or simply require in the communities they live, whether it’s easier access to gyms or behavioral health services or health screenings.

“We need to understand the needs of that population and then we can pull the system together,” Knox said. “We built our fitness centers into some of our insurance products so that some of the people who signed up for our insurance if they used those fitness centers got reimbursed.”

Indeed, in this interconnected age of taxis, take-out and other services available with a couple taps on a smart phone, expectations for convenience and value – with the same level of quality – have climbed ever higher.

“People are looking for convenient care. … There’s tremendous opportunity there,” said Mark Sparta, executive vice president and chief population health officer at Hackensack University Health Network in New Jersey.

Hackensack, he continued, had pursued that opportunity with partnerships in telemedicine, fitness centers and urgent care clinics, which in turn lower the health system’s costs while expanding its reach and appeal.

“The clinic setting is a much lower cost of care than our ED setting,” Sparta said, referring to hospitals’ emergency departments. Even at the fitness center, “folks will come in and they’ll receive a health screening. They’ll be seen by a nurse, a trainer, functional movements are screened.”

As Knox put it: “What we need to be doing is thinking about the problems that we’re facing and how do we work in different types of relationships with individuals and communities and employers and schools to solve some of our problems.”

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