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The Rise of Retailers & How Hospitals Can Compete

The Rise of Retailers & How Hospitals Can Compete

Is your hospital ready to take on retail-behemoths like Amazon and Walmart? What about the combined forces resulting from the CVS-Aetna and Cigna-Express Scripts mergers? Many may not be, based on Kaufman Hall’s analysis of 2018 patient volumes at 600 hospitals. The healthcare consulting firm found that “Volume trends demonstrated consistent underperformance relative to last year, with a few indicators showing increasing underperformance.”

While Kaufman Hall didn’t point the finger at retail healthcare specifically, the decline suggests that non-traditional competitors are making in-roads, thanks to rising healthcare consumerism. And this competition is just getting started; it’s time for hospitals and other traditional healthcare providers to think outside the box.

Understanding the Competitive Landscape

Merger-mania in healthcare isn’t new. M&A activity between hospitals and health systems exploded in recent years in response to the shift from volume- to value-based care. But in the last two years, it’s forays into healthcare by retail and tech companies that have taken center stage.

  • Walmart isn’t new to the retail healthcare landscape. It has offered vision care and health screenings at its stores for years, but the appointment of Humana executive Sean Slovenski to lead Walmart’s health and wellness division suggests bigger plans. In announcing the hire, Walmart U.S. CEO Greg Foran said, “Because of its strategic importance, we’ve decided to put more focus on our Health & Wellness business in the near term.” The company has begun floating the concept of turning unused space in parking lots at more than 5,300 stores into “town centers” featuring a mix of businesses and health clinics for convenient access to healthcare services.
  • Apple, which for the past eight years has topped Forbes’ most valuable brands list, updated its Health app last year to support the integration of patient data from hospitals, clinics and app data for a more holistic view of personal health data.
  • Amazon acquired online pharmacy PillPack and, more recently, announced a joint healthcare venture with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase called Haven. The enterprise has tapped globally recognized surgeon, writer and public health leader Atul Gawande, MD, MPH as CEO. In the press release announcing the name, Gawande explained, “We want to change the way people experience healthcare so that it is simpler, better and lower cost. We’ll start small, learn from the experience of patients, and continue to expand to meet their needs.”
  • CVS Health completed a $69 billion acquisition of health insurance provider Aetna late last year. Their plans include adding health services for chronic condition management, adding more primary care services at CVS MinuteClinics and providing guidance post-hospital discharge to help patients manage at-home recovery or complex conditions. CVS Health President and CEO Larry J. Merlo explains, “We are also leading change in healthcare by challenging the status quo with new technologies, business models and partnerships. In doing so, we will continue to deliver on our purpose of helping people on their path to better health.”
  • And this past April, Walgreens Boots Alliance indicated interest in expanding on partnerships it has already built with tech giant Microsoft, Kroger grocery stores and UnitedHealth Group urgent cares — with a potential Humana merger. Forbes notes, “For much of the last two years, such deals have been testing concepts and piloting healthcare services and technology to develop what executives have called the ‘drugstore of the future.’”

While hospital and health system mergers focus on improving access to care and quality, while increasing efficiency and reducing costs, these non-traditional mergers are aiming for even greater transformation — and they are bringing all their experience as customer-centric, retail leaders to the table. This new dynamic means that hospitals and other traditional healthcare providers will need to find new approaches to fuel patient acquisition and increase patient loyalty — or risk continued declines in patient volume.

Using Psychographic Segmentation to Improve Patient Loyalty

Hospitals need to make the shift to a retailer mindset when it comes to competing for patients. As we’ve noted in the past, it begins with better patient experiences. To deliver on healthcare consumers’ expectations — personalized, convenient, affordable care — hospitals must move away from the one-size-fits-all approach of the past to relevant, in-the-moment communications for patients.

How? By using psychographic segmentation to gain insights into how patients think, what they believe about health and wellness, where they seek out health-related information and how they can be motivated to make positive changes. But understanding what makes patients tick is just the first step. If healthcare providers fail to leverage psychographic insights efficiently, they still won’t reach patients.

Technology like the PatientBond engagement platform can help. It leverages the proprietary psychographic segmentation model developed by c2b solutions to segment individual healthcare consumers into one of five different groups:

Each segment brings different beliefs, desires and preferences to their healthcare experiences, which are then used within the platform to customize patient communications to increase engagement. Healthcare marketing and direct-to-patient communications can be fine-tuned to align with the different segments and delivered through email, text messages, automated phone calls, smartphone apps and portals.

In addition to helping with patient acquisition and patient loyalty, this powerful automated platform can also improve health outcomes by driving greater engagement for preventive and wellness care or compliance with post-discharge plans. And it’s an effective tool for automating payment reminders to boost collections.

Just as retailers have personalized and automated aspects of shopper experiences — Amazon’s recommendation engine, for example — healthcare organizations need to deliver the right message, at the right moment, via the right channel. By taking a page from retailers’ best practices and adopting the right tools, hospitals and other healthcare providers can participate in the transformation of healthcare delivery that the rise of retailers promises.

For more on psychographic segmentation, patient loyalty and what businesses can teach the healthcare industry, download our whitepaper.

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


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