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Hospitals embracing retail health concepts

Max-Wellness has launched smaller-format stores specifically designed for hospitals.

A paradigm shift is under way in U.S. hospitals. To keep pace with health reform, the rise of accountable care organizations and the growing empowerment of informed and cost-sensitive patients, hospital-driven health systems nationwide are joining the retail health revolution.

As Paula Crowley reports in the publication Hospitals & Health Networks, “Healthcare consumers value what all consumers value: convenience and customer service.”

That reality, Crowley noted, has redefined the way hospitals and health systems deliver ambulatory services by adopting “the fundamental principles of a profitable retail center: location, access, visibility, convenience and customer service.” She cited several examples of hospitals and rehab centers that have overhauled their central atriums with features like natural lighting, gardens, waterfalls, spacious and comfortable waiting lounges, cafes, in-house stores selling rehab equipment or other amenities.

Increasing patients’ access points to a health system is a key driver in the retail health revolution. But the hospital industry’s embrace of a retail health model also comes in response to a fundamental shift in the way public and private health plans pay for care — from a fee-for-service reimbursement model to one based on successful patient outcomes. That shift is fueling the rise of ACOs and more cost-effective health delivery systems, based on electronic medical records and a more integrated, holistic view of the patient that extends well beyond his or her care within the hospital through outpatient pharmacies and other initiatives.

“With payers moving toward paying for quality and ... the continuum of care, you’ve got to have an ACO, and you have to offer some retail [healthcare options],” asserted Ken Berndt, CEO of Careworks Convenient Healthcare, a division of Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger Health System. “You have to have low-cost access seven days a week.”

The electronic integration of patient medical records also is vital to “protect the continuum of care,” Berndt told DSN. “All our facilities share the same EMRs, including our Careworks retail clinics and urgent care centers, our medical homes and our hospitals,” he said. “So patients can freely flow back and forth, and everybody has access to all the medical information in the chart. It really does speed up care and makes it easier to know what to do with prescriptions and other services.”

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