More often than ever before, healthcare customers are skipping the ride to their doctors’ offices and taking matters into their own hands. Much of that is due to practices turning a blind eye to patient experience. Retail health will gladly take care of your patients, changing patient behavior, redirecting the flow of revenue, and decreasing your production numbers. Here’s how:
1. Telehealth Avoids a Trip to the Doctor’s Office
Most States require payers to cover telehealth1 and, according to one study, revenues from telehealth is expected to exceed USD $16.7 billion by 20252. Medical practices should take note of that large number. Why? Because those dollars are being diverted from appointments scheduled with a local doctor to a remote doctor—your practice may be getting little, if any, of these dollars! The rapid increase in interest and use of telehealth underscores the importance of staying engaged with your current patient base and investing in technology that allows your patients to communicate with their doctors remotely.
2. Retail Health is Cheaper than Visiting My Doctor
Retail health clinics, such as CVS’s MinuteClinics that are being tested in multiple locations this year, promise consumers a new level of convenience they will not experience at a traditional practice: no wait time, immediate access to a pharmacy, clear pricing, and the odds and ends found in any drug store. CVS publishes their rates online for easy comparison and claims that 85% of all Americans live within four miles of one of their stores3. CVS, and others, are going head-to-head with the walk-in clinics offered by larger healthcare organizations, such as Utah-based Intermountain Healthcare’s InstaCare facilities. The difference, however, is CVS’s acumen for creating a positive consumer experience—or patient experience—whereas Intermountain Healthcare lacks that skill.
3. Self-Diagnosis Saves Money
The Internet has empowered the health consumer by providing information for the patient to figure out for themselves what malady they’ve contracted, what treatments are available, and shop for the cure with the lowest price. More than likely, the treatment at the lowest price does not involve your practice.
4. YouTube: The Open Medical School
As the cost of healthcare has increased, access to the nuts and bolts of how to complete a particular procedure has also increased. A quick search of YouTube will result in a number of education videos on how to suture a wound, treat an insect bite, set a broken bone, remove a skin growth, or even perform a simple surgery. Certainly, every doctor has a story to share of a patient whose attempt to self-treat only made the condition worse. Self-treatment is not recommended!
5. Direct Access to Medical Supplies
Patients with chronic conditions are finding better prices and service by shopping online. Amazon dominates the online healthcare supplies market—it’s 2017 sales are estimated to have topped USD $2.1 billion in 20174. Many online retailers cater specifically to persons with diabetes or sleep apnea, as an example. The cost of a CPAP machine purchased online can be half of what it would cost if purchased through a medical practice. The global sleep apnea devices market is estimated to be worth USD $8.15 billion in 2018 and to expand at a CAGR of 6.8%. Online merchants selling diabetes and sleep apnea devices and supplies are gobbling up dollars that once flowed directly to medical practices like yours.
6. Alternative Medicine Circumvents the Doctor’s Office
The sale of essential oils, nutritional foods and drinks, and herbal remedies has significantly increased, primarily in response to rising healthcare costs, an increase in discretionary income due to a booming US economy, and a population that has become more focused on health and wellness. In the US, the essential oils market is valued at USD $4.74 billion in 2019 and expected to exceed USD $7 billion by 20245. Sales of herbal dietary supplements increased 8.5% in 2017, reaching USD $8 billion in the US6. The growing trend to self-treat feeds off the promotion of essential oils and herbal remedies. Today, when faced with an injury, it may not be uncommon for someone to ask “where’s the essential oils kit?” instead of “where is the first aid kit?”
The Power of the Consumer Voice
Given a wide range of alternatives, an ever increasing number of people within the US are skipping a trip to the doctor’s office for everyday maladies: The patient experience is less than desirable. Dollars that once flowed to healthcare organizations across the country now fund a kaleidoscope of healthcare choices, measured in billions of dollars.
Alternatives also give the patient the power to walk out or choose not to return to a particular practice. If a patient doesn’t care for the receptionist, the nurse, the building, let alone the care, they are more than likely to never return. Or, in the case of those that are bound by insurance or geographical limitations, they will turn to social media to share their displeasure.
Consumer behavior changes in healthcare emphasize the urgent need for medical groups to complete a round of serious introspection, from intake to discharge and everything in between. The patient experience should be top of mind. Is your intake process inviting, warm, and, more than anything, convenient and easy? Are you monitoring wait times? Is your practice staying in contact with your patients with relevant, timely messaging?
Finally, consider this: If you were a patient at your own practice, would you feel like a VIP or just another cog in the wheel? Have you experienced your own patient experience?
What Your Practice Can Do: Patient Experience
Perhaps you may read this article and choose to do nothing. And why should you? Your schedules may be full and your doctors may be busy. Sticking your head in the sand is an option.
Bob Hooey is credited with having said, “If you’re not taking care of your customer, your competitor will.” Regardless of how busy you may be today, that busyness does not change the fact that social change has seeped into every aspect of your practice. Reacting only after these social changes begin to adversely affect your practice would place you in a position of catch up, which is where no successful organization wants to be.
How do you take care of your “customers?” A good place to start is with patient engagement. Meaningful communication builds relationships that are stronger than the sirens of retail health. A person will stay true to your practice when they feel genuine interest in their health, which begins with consistent, relevant patient engagement.
1Greiwe, Michael. “Just the Facts: 30 Telehealth Statistics for Doctors to Know.” OrthoLive, 12 June 2018, www.ortholive.com/blog/just-the-facts-30-telehealth-statistics-for-doctors-to-know.
2“Telehealth Market Size Is Projected to Surpass USD 16.7 Billion by 2025.” MarketWatch, MarketWatch, Inc., 6 Mar. 2019, www.marketwatch.com/press-release/telehealth-market-size-is-projected-to-surpass-usd-167-billion-by-2025-2019-03-06.
3Kodjak, Alison. “CVS Looks To Make Its Drugstores A Destination For Health Care.” NPR, NPR, 21 Feb. 2019, www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/02/21/695216345/cvs-looks-to-make-its-drugstores-a-destination-for-health-care.
4Brohan, Mark. “More Consumers Take to the Web to Shop for Medical Supplies.” Digital Commerce 360, Vertical Web Media LLC, 29 Dec. 2018, www.digitalcommerce360.com/2018/12/24/more-consumers-take-to-the-web-to-shop-for-medical-supplies
5“U.S. Essential Oils Market Value 2024.” Statista, Statista, Inc., 19 Feb. 2019, www.statista.com/statistics/742159/us-essential-oils-market-value/.
6Smith, Tyler, et al. “Herbal Supplement Sales in US Increased 8.5% in 2017, Topping $8 Billion.” HerbalGram, American Botanical Council, 2018, cms.herbalgram.org/herbalgram/issue119/hg119-herbmktrpt.html?ts=1565116250&signature=9e56ad8298f8adcd238b241f91860a65.