Hybrid Care in the Age of Retail HealthBy: Caregility Team
Amazon Clinics and other direct-to-consumer (DTC) healthcare market entrants are “disintermediating the traditional healthcare journey,” as Trilliant Health researcher Sanjula Jain, Ph.D., recently put it. As retail health options flood the field, patients are increasingly by-stepping PCPs in favor of DTC telehealth solutions to address their low-acuity healthcare needs.
- Amazon Clinic expands nationwide to provide messaging and video visits for common health conditions
- Walmart and Other Drug Stores Want to Help You Skip Trips to the Doctor
- Walgreens and VillageMD Expand Full-Service Primary Care Model to the Chicago Area
For those who can take advantage of DTC telehealth services, there is a clear convenience win. However, some argue that this disruption to the status quo is introducing additional fragmentation that can negatively impact patient care and provider operations.
Implications for Patients: One major question arising from the surge in retail care relates to the handling of patient data exchange. If a patient receives treatment from a retail health provider, how will that care episode be integrated into their primary health record?
Implications for Providers: For traditional healthcare providers, the rise of DTC healthcare models can result in a loss of critical patient insight or potential patient drift to other care delivery sources, eroding health system market share and revenue.
As we watch the debate over whether patients should also be regarded as consumers play out in a literal sense, here’s the reality: We are all patients seeking effective care and consumers demanding modern convenience and responsiveness. The ideal health system is one that delivers on both.
How Providers Can Compete
Competing in a modern healthcare market disrupted by retail health will require some degree of assimilation on behalf of healthcare provider organizations (HPOs). By establishing hybrid models of care that include virtual service offerings, providers can give patients the same easy access to low-acuity care as DTC alternatives, keeping patients within the health system.
Beyond creating clear and convenient pathways to non-urgent care, strategically wielding virtual care across the enterprise poses additional competitive benefits for health systems. When used at the bedside, inpatient virtual engagement tools introduce remote clinical support resources to patients and floor teams, improving patient experience and outcomes in mid-to-high acuity care encounters, as well. Integrated virtual care empowers HPOs to offset staffing challenges while keeping pace with other industries in terms of delivering the convenience and digital access consumers have come to expect.
With an aging patient population and chronic conditions on the rise, these tools will become even more essential to health systems’ survival. Looking ahead, HPOs can anticipate similar outside competition from retail health as Aging-in-Place and Hospital-at-Home programs continue to move the point of care beyond traditional brick-and-mortar institutions. Establishing the virtual care infrastructure now will help providers meet emerging demand by enabling remote monitoring and management of chronic conditions. Here, provider organizations that have the historic relationship and longitudinal patient data to support a more personalized care plan may garner an edge.
A Catalyst for Care Model Transformation
By embracing hybrid care, healthcare organizations can provide more convenient, personalized, and efficient care, which is crucial for competing against retail health competitors and meeting the evolving needs of the patient population.
Perhaps one of the reasons healthcare has historically lagged other industries in terms of innovation has been due to the absence of significant external threats. Whether this is true or not, it’s clear that healthcare as an industry is at an inflection point.
In a world rapidly moving towards direct-to-consumer health models, healthcare organizations can’t remain passive observers. To compete effectively, we must pivot, innovate, and integrate. By embracing hybrid care models, healthcare organizations can honor both the patient and consumer aspects of individuals and secure their place in the future landscape. The era of retail healthcare isn’t a threat; it’s an opportunity to evolve and provide better, more connected care everywhere.
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