Re-Thinking Retail

Blog,Strategic Planning,Transformation

My Roomba just arrived, and I am beyond thrilled! Fed up with my inability to keep up with my golden retriever’s shedding, on a whim I did about 10 minutes of research on robotic vacuums and then added one to my Amazon cart. Less than 24 hours later, this game-changer arrived at my door.

A recent Ascendient article about the impact of Amazon Care got me thinking about how Amazon has changed my shopping experience entirely. I have household supplies delivered on a scheduled basis, presents shipped across the world to my nieces and nephews, and a wide selection of movies and music at my fingertips.  If Amazon can change my healthcare experience the same way, count me in…

I’ve been writing blogs and posting articles for years about how retail “non-traditional” providers are a threat to health systems, but I think it’s safe to say, I can no longer call these retail providers “non-traditional.” As consumerism and convenience continue to drive patient decision making, our health systems can learn from Amazon, other retailers, and the hospitality industry. Some successful consumer-oriented techniques I’ve seen implemented across the country include:

    • Gathering user input: Conducting regular community member meetings/forums provides a platform to get feedback on opportunities for new services or improvement within the existing system structure.
    • Offering hybrid solutions: While we’ve seen telehealth take off since the onset of COVID, some patients prefer in-person appointments. Heath systems need to focus on empowering patients to decide how and where they receive care, but also focus on surrounding patients with the resources they need for their unique situation (financial assistance counselors, care navigators, mental health services, etc.).
    • Conducting follow-up and root-cause analyses: Almost all on-line retailers send follow-up emails asking for feedback on their product and your experience. We’ve seen similar trends with healthcare providers, but there’s opportunity to take it even further. For example, instead of charging fees for missed office visits, providers can call patients to understand why a visit was missed and identify solutions to avoid missed appointments in the future.

These consumer-oriented techniques don’t require a lot of investment or specialized expertise. Health systems already have the data and the dedicated staff to compete with newcomers – plus the community roots and sense of mission that help to produce better outcomes. What’s needed most is a shift in mindset and a focus on customers rather than patients.

At a time when every product and service provider bombards me with well-timed ads tailored to my latest Google search, why must I still initiate a call to my healthcare provider to ask when I’m due for my annual physical?

Alternatively, health systems can leverage their competitive advantage around existing patient relationships and focus on improving their communication and increasing access to their services. While headed in the right direction today, I look forward to the day when healthcare takes a fully integrated, downstream, proactive approach to care.

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