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Winning Retailer Strategies Under the ACA: Retail and Reform Part 1

retail pharmacy customer giving thumbs upThe impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be felt across multiple channels in which consumers seek health and wellness products and services, not just among health insurers, hospitals and Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). 

In fact, retailers across the Drug, Food, Mass, Club and Online channels have the potential to capitalize significantly on the new healthcare environment. 

Make the Most of Reform as the ACA Trickles Down to Retail

We had already started to see innovation through novel alliances with health insurance companies — even before the major provisions of the ACA kicked in, Walmart partnered with Humana to give its member participants in HumanaVitality deals on fresh, healthy foods such as produce and lowfat dairy products to incentivize healthy behaviors.

However, the changes in the healthcare environment have profound implications for retailers that extend beyond cross-channel alliances. Retailers are well-positioned to serve consumers (or shoppers, in their vernacular) who will increasingly take ownership of their health and wellbeing in the move toward consumerism.

While the ACA gives access to health insurance coverage for all Americans, it does not necessarily give access to health care

Today it may take a while for a patient to get a primary care physician appointment, but the influx of tens of millions of newly insured patients will extend the time it takes to get an appointment. Moreover, studies have shown that physicians are becoming even more disenchanted with practicing under the ACA. A study conducted by The Physicians Foundation shows the majority of physicians believe healthcare in the United States is headed in the wrong direction:

ACA Passage affected feelings

Reports of physicians intending to leave practice due to decreasing reimbursement and increased administrative burden under the ACA add to concerns about patent demand outstripping physician supply.  What options does this leave patients?

a)      Seek professional care in alternative settings

b)      Maintain a healthy, wellness oriented lifestyle to prevent illness

Retail Clinics

With decreased access to primary care physicians in a traditional practice setting, the role of in-store retail clinics should be magnified for non-life threatening medical services. The convenience, value and increasing familiarity of this care delivery model will become ever more attractive to consumers who do not want to wait 4, 6, 9 weeks or more for a primary care appointment. 

In fact, most consumers are already supportive of care delivered by a non-physician professional; the c2b Consumer Diagnostic study of n=4,184 adults age 18+ in the U.S. found that 73% of the General Population agreed with the statement, “I would be willing to be treated by a nurse for non-life threatening issues if a doctor was not available.” Forty-four percent of respondents agreed when asked about pharmacists in a similar situation.

Respondents also indicated whether they had visited an in-store retail clinic in the last 12 months. Fifteen percent or respondents said they, themselves, had visited a retail clinic in the last 12 months; however, when asked whether they or anyone in their immediate family had visited a retail clinic, the number swelled to 23%, 2/3 of whom indicated they did so at least once a year.

Retail clinics typically treat acute issues like colds/flus or minor illnesses, provide immunizations and physicals, but they are in such close proximity to other health & wellness offerings that it is inevitable that linkages will be made to the front end and back end of the store. 

Nutritional foods, vitamins & supplements, probiotics, OTCs, pharmacy, exercise equipment, etc. are all less than a minute’s walk from the retail clinic, and making the connection for shoppers between clinic services and these offerings is a natural tie. 

This connection also helps reframe the treatment focus of the retail clinic to a total wellness consideration which we will discuss in detail next week.

Note: This is the first of a two-part article on retail strategies under the ACA, with Part 2 to follow on Monday, November 11, 2013.

Psychographic Segmentation and its Practical Application in Patient Engagement and Behavior Change

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