Healthcare Goes Retail


Healthcare, among the biggest industries in the world, is being massively disrupted, an effort that could take years or even decades before all the dust settles. In the meantime, the digital, mobile, delivery and other innovations that are taking place in this sector are also promising to impact retailers and the consumers who shop not only with mom-and-pop stores but with the bigger chains.

The latest example of that comes from one of the biggest retail chains out there — Walmart. It has opened a Walmart Health clinic in Georgia. The retailer also has updated its website with a link to Walmart Health and went online with the website. The Dallas, Georgia location will reportedly provide patients with low-cost, comprehensive care, including services for mental health. The clinic is located in a building that is adjacent to a Walmart location to offer patients a sense of privacy. The company will reportedly provide primary care, counseling, dental, X-rays, audiology and labs, among other offerings. The first appointments are said to be available in mid-September.

Other retailers are also focusing on primary care. Walgreens and VillageMD, a leading national provider of primary healthcare, have announced a partnership to provide primary care services for adult patients in the Houston, Texas area.

Lessons to Come

According to a price sheet from Walmart, an office visit at that clinic costs $40, while an annual checkup for an adult would set back that consumer $30. A pregnancy test retails for $10, a flu test for $20 and stitches run $115 or more. A dental exam, including X-rays, cost $25.

Walmart reportedly will use the lessons gained from this clinic to inform operations in further such endeavors. Those lessons, in turn, will likely help Walmart compete with its retail competitors in the healthcare space.

Those competitors, of course, include Amazon. One of its main, ongoing areas of focus in the healthcare space is delivery of prescription medications to consumers. According to the latest edition of the Walmart-Amazon Whole Paycheck Tracker from PYMNTS, PillPack, the Amazon-owned digital pharmacy, might be facing a big problem related to data. Online prescriptions giant CVS Caremark-owned Surescripts has taken yet another step in its quest to cut PillPack off from its prescription data.  Earlier in September, it announced it will cut ties with ReMy Health over patient data issues. PillPack had a deal with ReMy Health that allowed it to access patient history that was obtained by Surescripts.

The fight has been an ongoing conflict between the two firms that has been escalating over the last several months. Without Surecripts’ data, care of ReMy Health, PillPack must either rely on patient memory alone or manually reach out to physicians. That former is unreliable and can even be dangerous in some situations; the latter is time-consuming and expensive. Whether PillPack can find a better — and more direct — route to patient prescription data seems unlikely, since Surescripts controls over 80 percent of the market.

Innovation efforts continue for retail pharmacy operations. For instance, to provide medications to customers in a matter of hours, CVS Pharmacy said earlier this year that it is rolling out same-day prescription deliveries. Shoppers can access the offering at 6,000 pharmacy locations with the help of Shipt.

Mobile Moves

The intersection of new and upcoming 5G mobile technology and wearables also bring new disruptions in the coming few years to the practice of healthcare as the consumer level. Wearables are already being used as fitness trackers for related tasks, with insurance companies and medical groups testing out their effect on consumers, a trend that could lead to more precise and individual data, and perhaps even discounts or incentives for health insurance. According to one estimate, worldwide shipments of wearable devices will reach 225 million in 2019 (not all those devices are solely focused on health and fitness). In addition, end user spending on wearable devices is expected to reach $42 billion in 2019, with $16.2 billion of that amount on smartwatches.

As well, the current growth in voice-assistance technology in retail will play out in healthcare in its own way, thanks in large part to 5G, according to the report, which noted, “5G will also open the door to integrating new data sources into personal care, like voice and video inputs, giving healthcare another layer of information from which to draw and new ways for patients to engage in their care.”

The new and emerging 5G mobile network technology also promises to enable more uses of virtual reality and augmented reality. That holds true in both retail and healthcare, according to reports, including those recently released by PYMNTS.

Expect more such disruption sooner rather than later — developments that promise to change both healthcare and retail operations.


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