Over the last few years, many retailers have entered the healthcare industry, with an emphasis on providing consumers with more widespread and convenient services — a development that industry experts say traditional providers need to pay more attention to going forward, Caroline Hudson writes for Modern Healthcare.
"Healthcare is increasingly becoming a consumer-led industry, where patients want better care and more choices," Hudson writes, and this is allowing retailers, which range from drugstore chains to discount superstores, to disrupt the industry.
"It really goes back to servicing the consumer," said Corey Tarlowe, an equity research analyst at Jefferies. "Especially in today's world, [people] want the marrying of two concepts: They want great value, and they want it conveniently."
In recent years, several major retailers have made efforts to expand their positions in the healthcare space, including:
Currently, CVS has more than 10,000 retail pharmacies in the United States and Puerto Rico, as well as 1,000 Minute Clinics. Through its ownership of health insurer Aetna, which serves around 34 million Americans, CVS is working to incentivize its health plan clients to use the company's health services.
The company also recently acquired home health services provider Signify Health for $8 billion, as well as primary care provider Oak Street Health for $10.6 billion. CVS is also investing heavily in both virtual care and digital health through its HealthHUB locations as well as early-stage and start-up tech companies.
Walgreens Boots Alliance
In 2021, Walgreens invested $5.2 billion in primary care provider VillageMD and currently has a roughly two-thirds controlling interest in the company. Over the next few years, Walgreens plans to significantly expand the number of VillageMD locations nationwide, with a goal of at least 600 practices by 2025 and 1,000 practices by 2027.
VillageMD also recently expanded by acquiring Summit Health, which also includes the urgent care clinic chain CityMD, for $8.9 billion.
Aside from expanding into primary care, Walgreens has also invested in home healthcare through CareCentrix. Currently, CareCentrix has 7,400 provider locations and serves 19 million patients.
In February, Amazon closed a deal to acquire primary care provider One Medical for $3.9 billion. Currently, Amazon is offering annual memberships for One Medical at $144 a year for new customers, with the regular price being $199 a year.
The company also launched Amazon Clinic, which is a "message-based virtual care service," last November. It is available in 32 states to treat 20 common health conditions, including allergies, acne, and hair loss.
Amazon also expanded its pharmacy services with RxPass, which allows subscribers the ability to fill as many prescriptions as they need for a flat monthly fee.
Walmart is the largest retailer in the country, which brings significant traffic for both its pharmacies and walk-in retail health clinics. The company has also added virtual care, a discount drug platform, and an EHR for its clinic patients.
Going forward, Walmart plans to add more free-standing health centers around the country, starting with 16 new centers in Florida this year. It also plans to expand into Arizona and Missouri and add more centers in Texas by the end of 2024. The company is also working to increase community access to healthcare research through its Walmart Healthcare Research Institute.
In September, Dollar General CEO Todd Vasos announced the organization would offer more healthcare products and services to its customers under its "DG Wellbeing" initiative. By October, DG Wellbeing products were available in more than 3,200 of the nearly 19,000 Dollar General stores nationwide.
In addition, Dollar General has partnered with DocGo to open mobile healthcare clinics at three retail locations in Tennessee. DocGo, which refers to itself as a "last-mile" provider, sends clinicians to locations to provide care that would typically require patients to visit a physical clinic.
The clinics offer physicals and routine checkups, vaccinations and immunizations, and screening and lab testing. They also provide urgent care services and care for chronic conditions, including hypertension and diabetes.
According to industry experts, traditional hospitals and health systems should pay more attention to retail disruptors going forward, especially as these companies work to offer even more services to consumers. Some potential focus areas include multispecialty care and virtual care.
"Maybe one day you'll say, 'I don't need to go to the doctor. I can just go to Walmart,'" Tarlowe said.
Currently, some healthcare leaders are making plans to address disruptors in the industry. For example, in April, Kaiser Permanente announced that it was acquiring Geisinger Health, which will operate under a new subsidiary called Risant Health. According to Kaiser CEO Greg Adams, the acquisition will serve as "a counterbalance to some of the disruptors."
"As you look at where healthcare is in this country, [as] you look at the dynamics that are playing out, there are new entrants," Adams said. "We've got technologies changing healthcare. We've got retail. I mean, healthcare is going through certainly the most significant transformation in my career." (Hudson, Modern Healthcare, 5/23; Hudson, Modern Healthcare, 4/26 )
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