New technology is influencing traditional healthcare organizations to put more focus on the customer experience. Services such as in-home and virtual care, instant messaging with clinicians, and prescription medication delivery are just a few examples of consumer-focused changes in healthcare.
The consumerization of healthcare is an industry change that is making health services easier to access, more affordable than traditional hospital offerings, and personalized to individual needs. Consumers no longer need to solely depend on insurance or hospitals in their area to provide accessible or affordable care. Instead, they can choose from several physical and virtual services to get the care they need when they need it, and know exactly how much it will cost them.
Traditional healthcare systems aren’t taking a backseat in this consumer-driven change. They’re working to keep up.
Consumerization of Healthcare Fueled by Tech Companies
Technology companies are known for their ability to disrupt industries, and healthcare is no exception. The key to bringing innovative change to an industry is being able to improve the pain points of a current service or product. These companies are finding their niche to fill the gaps that patients experience with traditional healthcare systems.
- Amazon Pharmacy is filling patient experience gaps by allowing medication to be ordered anytime online, providing immediate visibility into medication prices, and having medication delivered to your door. Amazon isn’t done yet. They are currently working through a OneMedical acquisition that, if approved by the FTC, would provide consumer-friendly features such as virtual care, quick appointment booking at physical locations across the country, and customer service assistance.
- Google is working to be the choice for consumers to turn to for healthcare information. Its primary product, Google Search, is getting additional features to show information such as healthcare provider availability and insurance that the provider accepts. Products such as Fitbit, Nest, and the Google Fit app are other examples of how Google is building its inventory of health resources that allow consumers to track their own health information.
What Amazon and Google have to offer consumers is just the starting point for how technology companies are making the healthcare industry focus more on patients. These companies are well-positioned to offer convenient services and create personalized messaging because they do not have to navigate the challenge of changing established processes and tools as traditional healthcare organizations do. Rather, they are starting these services from the ground up with a large amount of capital and new team members who have an expectation of change and are ready to implement it.
Consumerization of Healthcare Supported by Retail Companies
Retail companies are also making sure they are part of the changes in healthcare by building on their competitive advantage of having established, convenient physical locations for consumers to visit.
- Walmart rolled out its first health center in 2019 putting primary, urgent care, labs, x-ray, diagnostics, counseling, dental, optical, and hearing services all in one facility with low, transparent pricing. They have expanded health centers to a few states and announced they would be partnering with Epic as its electronic medical records system. In addition, Walmart announced its acquisition of telehealth provider MeMD in 2021. Rebranded as Walmart Health Virtual Care, customers can now get virtual care nationwide.
- Walgreens and VillageMD announced in 2021 the opening of new primary care practice locations in Dallas, Texas. This partnership of Village Medical physicians and Walgreens pharmacists are meant to provide a more streamlined healthcare experience with extended service hours for both in-person and virtual visits.
- CVS continues to expand its healthcare offerings to provide easier access to care with the recent announcement of its Signify Health acquisition. According to a CVS press release, this acquisition will help provide in-home care to consumers either in-person or virtually.
Similar to technology competitors in the healthcare space, retailers such as Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens are creating new service offerings that come with the expectation of change and the willingness to implement it. Customers of these retailers who come to know these brands for their specific services or products now have the chance for an enhanced healthcare experience with them.