Can retailers get Americans to trust in-store clinics?

Discussion
Source: Village Medical at Walgreens
Dec 04, 2020
George Anderson

Forty-seven percent of Americans surveyed are not confident in the level of medical care they would receive from a retail in-store clinic, according to a new study.

A new report, “Healthcare Ecosystem 2021: Retail’s Role in the Future of Care,” from the digital engagement platform UPshow, is based on surveys of 500 consumers and 250 retail healthcare executives across the U.S. The study found that the relative level of trust in in-store clinics varied depending on where consumers lived. Sixty-one percent of those surveyed who live in cities “completely trust” the care they receive at in-store clinics compared to 52 percent of those located in rural areas and 48 percent in suburbs. A smaller issue is that 11 percent of those surveyed weren’t aware that retail clinics accept major insurance.

Retailers do have reasons for optimism when it comes to in-store clinics: 49 percent of consumers prefer to use them instead of standalone facilities as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Sixty percent of retail executives participating in the survey said that they have seen an increase in spending per clinic visit since the pandemic first hit the U.S.

The report also points to opportunities for retailers with clinics to further engage patients (AKA customers) during their store visits. Only 21 percent of retailers are leveraging their marketing communications to encourage repeat visits and fewer than one-in-three try to guide those seeking treatment in clinics to make additional purchases while they are in the store.

With plenty of challenges and opportunities ahead, major retailers continue to push forward with plans to open more in-store clinics. Walgreens announced on Wednesday that it plans to open 40 doctor-staffed in-store clinics by next summer. The openings are part of an expansion announced by the pharmacy giant in July that it involves investing $1 billion over the next five years to open up to 700 clinics with VillageMD in more than 30 different markets around the U.S.

Alex Gourlay, co-chief operating officer, Walgreens Boots Alliance, called the retailer’s partnership with VillageMD  part of “the most comprehensive and large-scale roll out of physician-led primary care services co-located in a retail pharmacy.” He said the need for the two companies’ patient care teams “has never been more critical” when it comes to providing “convenient access to high-quality, affordable care” in local communities.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What can retailers with in-store clinics do to build trust in their medical service offerings? Should retailers be promoting medical services to consumers with the same frequency and in the same manner that they promote the rest of their business?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"If you want patients to come to a clinic in a retail store, then you have to create a clinic inside the store that looks and feels like a clinic, not just another department."
"If retailers want to be in the health care provider business they are going to have to carve out a section of the store and invest in making it look like a clinic."
"It will be interesting to see if the retail mindset can transition from being a retailer, selling stuff, to caring for the health and lives of many..."

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16 Comments on "Can retailers get Americans to trust in-store clinics?"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

I believe that retailers will play a significant role in the future of health care delivery. Part of the challenge in getting consumers to use these services is the in-store (clinic) experience, which has been spotty and inconsistent — this has compromised consumer confidence. As the in-store (clinic) experience improves, I believe that consumers will be more willing to access these services from retailers. Retailers should be promoting their medical services, but they should do so only when they can deliver the patient experience they claim.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

It doesn’t help that so many in-store clinics look grotty and feel down-at-heel. If retailers can’t be bothered to create a pleasant experience – and many can’t – then it’s hardly surprising that consumer trust is lacking!

Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

Just a small quibble, George, but more than half of respondents are confident in in-store clinics. That said, this is a great example of backwards marketing, where we’ve created a problem and now someone wants us to fix it. First, ignore any research being done now – there’s no reason to believe it will apply to the post-pandemic future. Second, if people don’t trust it, then do some advertising – tell them why they should trust it. Is it staffed with real doctors? Is it less expensive than seeing a “real” doctor? I watch a fair number of ads in a day and I read two newspapers. There are always Sunday ads for CVS and often Sunday ads for Walgreens, neither mentioning clinics (and we have them within a couple of miles of where I live).

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

Co-branding is a potential solution to this problem. Here in Milwaukee, the Walgreens “Take Care” clinics were taken over by Aurora Healthcare, part of the Advocate-Aurora network and the biggest system in the state. The trust factor, moving from a generic identity to a recognized healthcare course, is probably a lot higher after the rebranding.

This is about to become an even bigger issue with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. Many clinics inside pharmacies will be administering these vaccines in large quantities, and the program’s success really depends on their credibility.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

I have said many times that the customer’s perception is the reality that retailers have to deal with. If you want patients to come to a clinic in a retail store, then you have to create a clinic inside the store that looks and feels like a clinic, not just another department. Then it has to be staffed by medical personnel that reinforce the clinic atmosphere.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

I couldn’t agree more, Steve! Appearances are critical to perception, and a hidden door to a room that resembles a holding cell as much as an exam room is not inviting. If retailers want to be in the health care provider business they are going to have to carve out a section of the store and invest in making it look like a clinic. And though I am a great believer in nurse practitioners as being more than adequate for most common health maladies, having an M.D. on staff would help a lot as well.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

I could not have said it any better than this! It’s a simple formula, really, and the only thing I would add is that once a retailer has followed this formula, they need to properly advertise it to their customers and explain why it will benefit them to use it.

Suresh Chaganti
BrainTrust

Primary care centers provide a really critical buffer against overwhelming urgent care and emergency care providers. It is also a more economical way to access health care in the age of high deductible plans.

For the overall health of the system, it is important to improve the trust in the facilities. That happens when issues can be resolved without having to go to multiple facilities or getting to a physician if the urgent care is staffed only by a nurse practitioner.

Upgrading the facilities to have at least one physician on duty will increase trust and an x-ray facility on premises will increase the odds of it being a one-stop shop.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

What can retailers with in-store clinics do to build trust? Install more of them and promote them like crazy. Something that was unusual in the past becomes the norm as widespread adoption occurs. Once your customer tries your clinic, be diligent to ensure your staff gives them the same great experience that you demand elsewhere in your store. Don’t just build it and hope they will come.

David Leibowitz
BrainTrust

I’m not sure where UPShow stands in this space (I looked them up, and they are a digital signage company?) – but there is a considerable amount of research and market movement that shows why leading retailers are moving aggressively into health care — including Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, and even Amazon.

  • 48 percent of retail pharmacy customers have used a pharmacy health service (up 5 percent) – JD Power;
  • There will be an estimated shortfall of 139,000 physicians by 2033 (AAMC).
  • This creates significant opportunity. And a “clinic” is not necessarily limited to the physical footprint. The front door to health care is also through virtual consult or through a partner ecosystem. Or ambient – through the use of IoT telemetry from medical to consumer devices. These will promote healthy lifestyles, adherence, and reduce visits for acute care.

    This is the aspiration of retail + health of the future. It goes way beyond the “minute clinic.”

    Gene Detroyer
    BrainTrust

    It is all about experience and trust. With the COVID-19 vaccine coming, many, many new customers will come to Walgreens or CVS who had never thought about getting any type of medical treatment outside of a doctors office. If they go and the experience is good, they will come back for the next level of care. If that is good, then the next. And how many times do we not go to the doctor, when we should, because it is too much bother? Give your customers confidence that you can handle whatever at the close by, convenient pharmacy.

    Rich Kizer
    BrainTrust

    I don’t have a problem as long as the clinic is affiliated with my caregiver and hospital, so my full medical history can be examined. I went into one very major retailer who was promoting customers to “come in and get your flu shot.” At 10 a.m. on a Thursday, customers were greeted by a sign on the door: “Open by appointment only. Please call …” Not good.

    Cynthia Holcomb
    BrainTrust

    For decades the keystone of health care has been the patient-physician relationship. Retail store spin-off medical care clinics seem primed for higher medical staff turnover than traditional medicine. Caring for one’s personal health in the form of commoditizing health care convenience in lieu of a long-term patient-physician relationship may fill in the gaps until one gets sick or really sick. Socio-economic factors also play a role in the opportunity of drop-in health care vs. traditional health care. Some people may not have an economic choice of how they receive health care. Thus, retail in-store clinics hopefully will serve as a health care stopgap. It will be interesting to see if the retail mindset can transition from being a retailer, selling stuff, to caring for the health and lives of many, many people who will drop into an in-store clinic, trusting their health to retailers turned health care providers.

    Jeff Sward
    BrainTrust

    I loved it when banks and dry cleaners moved into grocery stores. The consolidation of simple, transactional tasks into one stop was a no-brainer. Medical care has to operate on a higher plain of customer confidence. And we can still understand that the clinic doesn’t have to rise to the level of being an emergency room. We embraced “fast food” a long time ago. Maybe the time for “fast medicine” has arrived.

    Ricardo Belmar
    BrainTrust
    Part of the reason consumers are having a tough time accepting these retail locations as health clinics have a lot to do with their perception of those retail spaces to begin with. Consumers have preconceived notions of what a healthcare experience needs to feel like, just as they have preconceptions of what a great, inviting retail space should feel like. So let’s have a small dose of reality — most consumers don’t feel that a CVS, Walgreens, or most other drugstore environments are as inviting as the big-box retailer or specialty apparel store they’re used to walking into. Why? In most cases, it just feels run down and not properly cared for — and after the extreme experience of a pandemic, consumers are more concerned with how clean and safe an environment feels more than ever before. For some consumers, even walking into a Walmart or Target offering such services may not feel “right.” That’s where retailers entering the healthcare market need to start — create and/or upgrade their space to provide the right feel… Read more »
    Terry Lugo
    Guest

    I think it’s a great opportunity for retailers to provide a convenient service for the consumer. The clinic does need to have its own branded area and the quality of service needs to be top notch, this includes customer service and scheduling to manage appointments, walk-ins, etc. It would be very helpful to be affiliated with a healthcare system to establish confidence in the level and quality of care. The retailer should promote this service in the same frequency as their regular business. If they are going to offer this service, the consumer needs to see it as a brand.

    wpDiscuz
    Braintrust
    "If you want patients to come to a clinic in a retail store, then you have to create a clinic inside the store that looks and feels like a clinic, not just another department."
    "If retailers want to be in the health care provider business they are going to have to carve out a section of the store and invest in making it look like a clinic."
    "It will be interesting to see if the retail mindset can transition from being a retailer, selling stuff, to caring for the health and lives of many..."

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