Open enrollment for Retail Healthcare 2.0

Dr. Kris Kryder, executive chairman of higi, believes a new healthcare era has arrived for retailers willing to embrace it.

Over the course of my three plus decades as a physician, I have experienced numerous changes within healthcare. Costs continue to escalate, barriers to access persist, and the influence of consumerism continues to push the industry into unknown areas with new business and care distribution models emerging.  And although quality of care has generally improved, there is still a long way to go before we achieve a more patient-focused, physician-friendly ‘system’.

The typical patient experience of today is basically an interruption to their daily routines and lifestyle. It requires time off work, waiting room delays, routine paperwork, tests and a brief conversation with a physician. No wonder patients are seeking alternatives that are less disruptive.

We are witnessing the arrival of Retail Health 2.0. Fifteen years ago with the birth of Retail Health 1.0, Minute Clinics and other retail-based self-service healthcare models emerged and delivered a wake-up call to traditional healthcare establishments, especially hospitals. With little to no connection to a primary care physician, retail health locations leveraged their convenience and access-advantage to offer self-limited, low-level acute care services and build additional consumer value, traffic and revenue. At the end of the day, patients are consumers and consumers are patients. 

Retail health continues to evolve, merging together consumer lifestyle/behaviors, patient needs and technology advancements into new models that leverage real-time health data to deliver pre-emptive care and provider intervention, all while shopping for toothpaste and other essentials or filling a prescription.

One interesting new care area for retail health is in chronic disease management.  In a new initiative between Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and higi health stations located in more than 200 local grocery stores, pharmacies and community centers across the Chicagoland area, primary care physicians at Rush can now remotely connect and monitor their patients real-time at no additional cost to the patient. Patients are directed by their Rush physician to regularly conduct their higi-enabled check-up at local retailers where vital signs — blood pressure, weight and heart rate — are securely recorded and transmitted real-time for physician review.  Rush is currently working with hypertensive patients but will expand to other chronic conditions like pre-diabetes, diabetes, and obesity. These patients will be directed to the higi stations between physician visits in lieu of office check-ins, saving the patients and physicians time and money, and allowing the physicians to focus on those patients with the greatest needs. 

This new retail solution — a combination of real-time patient data plus automated physician interventions — will drive increased access and adherence for patients, and an expanded primary care network for Rush. This complements the expansion of additional Rush outpatient clinical sites. Physician productivity at Rush will also improve, as much (joyless) physician-generated data entry is eliminated by the higi real-time secure integration of data directly into the patient electronic health record.

For retailers, this model is shown to enhance retail brand relevancy, build store traffic and increase sales revenues. Retail-based, patient-centered models with solutions like those offered by higi will be key to care access and health monitoring for hard to reach populations that have limited access to provider and hospital services. Consider the recent acquisition by CVS of Aetna. Perhaps CVS will provide zero copayments for Aetna members with selected chronic diseases, perhaps conditioned upon regular remote monitoring of vital signs at CVS stores.

Or imagine the possibilities of the collaboration among JPMorgan, Amazon, and Berkshire Hathaway. Might Berkshire Hathaway’s Geico division offer discounted health insurance to their existing auto-insured base if members obtain regular, no-cost medical monitoring at health kiosks conveniently located at JPMorgan’s 4,000 Chase banks — with direct prescription ordering at those kiosks from Amazon?

Better experiences for consumers, along with reduced costs and improved access to healthcare providers, are poised to dramatically increase in retail settings.  Retail leaders should welcome this convergence and the opportunity retail-based healthcare presents to enhance the role of the pharmacist and resources available in-store.  

As healthcare moves outside of the hospital, in-store care experiences will move rapidly beyond providing flu shots, filling prescriptions and offering over-the-counter medicines. Technology adoption of remote medical monitoring and app-based communications that enable management of high cost chronic illness in the retail setting will rise in importance to support lower costs and accessible care.

Technologies, like higi, located in nearly 11,000 retail stores nationwide, as well as others, deliver this needed secure and immediate connectivity between doctors and their patients.  With nearly one million screenings per week by higi users at retail locations, it is evident this model is working.

These, and other, innovations are knitting together the healthcare and retail landscapes, and providing positive disruption to the larger healthcare system in which the old hospital-insurance playbook has failed.

Tech-enabled partnerships among healthcare entities and retail providers are mutually beneficial, enabling better quality care, lower costs, greater access, and more convenience. But the big winner will be the patient. Doctors want to keep patients connected, out of waiting rooms and hospitals, in their communities...and most of all — healthy.

Dr. Chris Kryder is Executive Chairman of higi.