Retail pharmacy, clinics rise to the challenge of healthcare reform

It could be described as a perfect storm. The U.S. healthcare system is working to tackle soaring costs, a lack of ample accountability and a lack of access to primary care physicians as millions of previously uninsured Americans gain insurance via health reform. Despite the challenges presented by this new era of health care, the reality is that there’s rarely been a more promising time for retail healthcare delivery.

That is a key message of the GMDC whitepaper, “The Changing Healthcare Scene @ Retail: Retailers Setting the Stage for a Greater Role in U.S. Healthcare Delivery.”

“If stores are to optimize their health offers, they need to overcome many external and internal challenges. They must define and assert their larger roles in a market roiled by economic and legislative change — most notably the Affordable Care Act, effective at the start of 2014. They must advance their case to health officials and the public to heighten enthusiasm and growth prospects,” the whitepaper stated. “Why? To stand up against members of the medical establishment who’d rather dismiss stores than recognize their value in augmenting physician care, and to position stores for where health care appears to be heading.”

By raising the perception of retail health products and services, retail stores can enhance value and become a seamless part of the evolving healthcare landscape. While some retailers are making some significant progress, the whitepaper further details trends and documents research to help retailers further optimize their health investments.

Government payers and insurers want providers to be more accountable for better patient outcomes, and medication management is key to these results. In light of this, the focus on patient counseling by pharmacists has intensified.

Furthermore, pharmacists can not only lift aisle sales by guiding patients to the right OTC medications and nutritionals for their condition, but they also can help patients to self-care.

“OTCs effectively help people to self-care, save time and the expense of seeing doctors for relatively minor ailments, and avoid exposure to sick people in waiting rooms. Indeed, the availability of OTCs is key to providing symptomatic relief to an estimated 60 million people who otherwise would not seek treatment,” the whitepaper stated, citing a Booz & Co. study done by the CHPA.

The whitepaper also noted that switch products that hit shelves amid the implementation of the ACA coincided with the rise in self-care driving more traffic to stores. Rx-to-OTC switches can be a triple-win as retailers gain more store visits, aisle traffic and category sales; consumers have easy access to effective remedies; and brands extend revenue streams beyond their patent expirations.

Then there are retail-based health clinics. Such clinics are increasingly demonstrating their importance within the healthcare system and are no doubt poised for expansion. Aside from expanding their geographic footprint and scope of service — through such offerings as helping patients manage such chronic conditions as diabetes and high cholesterol — clinics also are forming a number of strategic affiliations with health systems.

Furthermore, the whitepaper noted a rise in telemedicine at retail.

“Stores increasingly address both acute care and preventive needs — at a time when millions of Americans lack access to primary care physicians, and most who struggle in this economy feel they can’t afford to get sick so they’d better act more responsibly for their own wellness,” the whitepaper stated. “This provides a sweet spot for stores: Pharmacy and OTCs/nutritionals continue to anchor the retail health portfolio, as they have for decades. Clinics are on the rise. And … retailers increasingly try to connect the better-for-you food and non-foods sides of consumer health more closely.”

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