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I'm fascinated by the potential for changing buying habits of the healthcare population. Will the pandemic change our focus to delivering care in the home and retail clinics? 

Modern Healthcare did a piece on this on March 20th.

Health systems revamp their approach to retail clinics


The story on retail clinics


  • Low-acuity care costs around 30% and 80% less than similar treatment at physician offices and emergency departments, respectively
  • Number of retail clinics increased from 351 facilities in 2006 to around 3,000 in 2020
  • 13.7% of all ED visits are for low-acuity conditions


  • Retail clinics increase healthcare spending by $14 per person per year, trumping the savings associated with replacing doctor and ED visits
  • EDs in close proximity to retail clinics didn’t see a reduction in low-acuity care

Source: Modern Healthcare reporting

The number of retail clinics is poised to grow as health systems eye lower cost and more convenient settings.

In Today's episode I explore what it will take from a technology perspective. Is our technology retail grade. What does it mean to be retail grade. Would you tolerate your health systems technology if it were used to buy airline tickets? 


This transcription is provided by artificial intelligence. We believe in technology but understand that even the smartest robots can sometimes get speech recognition wrong.

  Today in health it, the story is the growth of retail clinics. My name is Bill Russell. I'm a former CIO for a 16 hospital system and creator of this week in Health IT a channel dedicated to keeping health IT staff current. I. And engaged. No sponsor for today. Just wanted to make you aware of a service we offer.

We do three full length shows on this week in health IT every week. These are interviews, new shows, and even a solution showcase. From time to time. You may not have time to listen to every episode, but we develop clip notes to keep you informed. This is an email that goes out 24 hours after each show airs on the channel with a summary, bullet points and two to four short video clips.

That you can just get the feel of what was talked about on the show. You can subscribe on our website this week, Just click on the subscribe button and have you and your team take a look at that and get the conversation started on the right foot. Alright, on to today's story. This comes from Modern Healthcare and I've become fascinated by the potential of changing buying habits of healthcare consumers.

Brought about by Covid. Brought about by the Pandemic. Yesterday we talked about the home. Today we're gonna talk about retail clinics, or at least Modern Healthcare is, and we're going to comment on it. The story is titled, health Systems Revamp Their Approach to Retail Clinics. This is from the article.

Kaiser Permanente is working with Target and its effort to expand its retail network in Southern California. Kaiser Permanente. Aims to double its Retail clinic network over a four year span, increasing its footprint from 17 and 2018 to 35 in 2022. The Integrated health system plans to add about four clinics in Southern California Target stores over the next year while 2020 was likely an outlier given the periodic shutdown of non-essential services following the ebb and flow of Covid 19.

Foot traffic across Kaiser's retail clinics was up around 50% from 2018 to 2019. Patients who used the clinics to fill prescriptions, schedule an appointment, and access other services were increasingly happy. I. With their experience said, bill Caswell, chief Operating Officer for Kaiser in Southern California.

We look at these retail clinics as an extension of our integrated model. He said, adding that the treatment pathways are connected by an electronic health record and patients are steps away from a pharmacy. When we look at the patient outcomes, follow, follow-up visits, and customer and patient satisfaction, we are delivering on our promise of quality care, and this is gonna be one of the key.

Talking points the key. So what for this is They are, and it's an integrated model. It's integrated closely with the er, it's, it, it's integrated closely with the care pathways. And that becomes very important and the technology for that matter and the article goes on, and though Kaiser's experience provides a promising example, many other health systems experiments with retail clinics have fallen short of expectations as providers adjust.

Staffing service offerings and IT infrastructure, and that's gonna be another point that we talk about. It's getting ready for this. It's not that this isn't a good model, it's that this model takes a change, takes a change in the way that we've approached things and they talk about the adaptation. So part of the version 2.0 is maximizing our ability to bring in specialists via telehealth.

Caswell said we learned a lot, especially over the past year in how Telehealth can hit. A sweet spot in meeting customer needs, right? So now you have this retail clinic, which is out at the point where the market is interacting with the healthcare provider. and you're able to bring those specialists to bear in those environments without putting those specialists in those locations.

And this has always been, staffing has always been one of the biggest challenges. So providers are wrestling with the COVID 19 pandemic as well, which may have permanently shifted how patients access care as telehealth and scope of practice regulations adjust. Another key point, have buying patterns changed in your market and they may or may not have.

I will say that I believe they will change and have changed dramatically in the urban areas. I'm not sure in the rural areas that it's changed much, but in the urban areas, I think we're gonna see a significant change in how people access care moving forward. It goes on to say, if you are losing an entire generation of family practitioners and internists that are not being replaced, having a retail clinic access is important, but there are significant volume and service mix hurdles said Jeff Goldsmith, founder and President of Consultancy Health Futures.

If these retail clinics are loss leaders, then you have to wonder about the investment logic and that becomes one of the questions this. Should not be a lost leader for other services. We should figure out a way to make this a, a profit center for the health system. Otherwise it will continue to lag and it can't continue to lag if buying patterns have changed.

Alright, the story goes on and then here's some research on this. Here's the opportunities. Low acuity care costs around 30% to 80% less than similar treatment at physician offices and emergency departments respectively. So that's bullet 0.1. Second one number of retail clinics increased from 351 facilities in 2006 to around 3000 in 2020, and it goes on 13.7% of all ED visits are for low acuity conditions.

Some of the drawbacks that they point to are retail clinics increase healthcare spending by $14 per person per year. Trumping the savings associated with replacing the doctors in ED visits. And we'll look at that a little closer. And Ed's in close proximity to retail clinics didn't see a reduction in low acuity care.

So we're gonna skip through. They talk about a bunch of different examples. Navan Health has mentioned in here, as well as some others. Navan really cites the strong connection between their primary care offices and retail clinics as part of the driving factor. They're also in urban centers. Which is going to be, I think the area where these retail clinics really take off.

Uh, it goes on retail clinics that aren't integrated into health systems. Er and care pathways run the risk of driving up healthcare spending through redundant or excessive care, and that's where the $14 in increased costs come. It comes when they're not integrated and you have . Tests that are being run based on multiple locations where you're seeing people, and so that integration becomes key.

It goes on. It talks a little bit about Walgreens here. Meanwhile, Walgreens announced plans last July to invest a billion dollars in Village MD over the next five years to expand its primary care clinic footprints across its US stores. It will initially add 700 Village MD primary care clinics and hundreds more after that staffed by full service physicians rather than a nurse practitioner or physician assistant.

There are growth opportunities around new markets or service lines. As well as portfolio optimization opportunities. Johnson said, noting that right-sizing clinics or offices is often overlooked in mergers and acquisitions. But above the competitive nature, there's also an opportunity for your health system to meet the needs of the community where you serve.

And I think to do that in a profitable way, the somewhat on this, there's gonna be a shift in buying patterns and habits. I believe that's to be the case to miss. This is gonna be a multimillion dollar mistake for health systems and there could be downstream consequences as well. This isn't purely covid, although Covid is part of it, that a habit forming pandemic is definitely part of it.

This is due to new entrant and the emergence of technology and the use of technology during the pandemic, right? So we are now used to using digital tools and get and receiving remote care. Key points from this article to consider. Retail clinics work best when they're integrated with the systems, ER, and care pathways.

There is a great opportunity for health systems to partner with new entrants instead of taking on extensive building projects. This mitigates the risk in these models to the point of integration is not the ownership of the building, but the integration of the staffing and the technology. I'm gonna continue to be bullish on health systems that identify and leverage low asset approaches to entering and serving markets.

Let target, Walgreens and others own the building and the facility uses your staff and your technology. My question to you is, is your technology retail grade, meaning does it measure up with regard to convenience and personalization, or are you still grading on the curve of healthcare? We are better than the health system down the street.

When the clinic success is based on volume, the digital experience, the digital front door, has to be as impressive as the millions that were poured into opening that new clinic. It has to be pleasing to the eye, easy to use, easy to access services, and to manage my experience. With a simple mobile interface, it's time to step out of the curve and start to evaluate your technology against a new set of players.

Is your tech Apple-esque in its design and use? Welcome to the Major Leagues. This is what it's gonna take. That's all for today. If you know of someone that might benefit from our channel, please forward them a note. They can subscribe on our website this week,, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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