As healthcare leaders already understand, the United States is shifting from fee-for-service to fee-for-value reimbursement, and population health management should, in theory, lower costs by reducing illnesses through disease management for entire patient populations, thereby reducing utilization of our healthcare system.
Population health management should, in theory, lower costs by reducing illnesses through disease management for entire patient populations.
When you think “pop health,” you probably think of hospital systems with affiliated doctors’ offices engaging thousands of patients. Few people think about pharmacies—AKA drug stores or druggists—when they think about pop health.
That’s changing rapidly. There’s a good possibility your corner pharmacy has an integrated health clinic for ambulatory care. This phenomenon is yet another buzzword: retail health.
As Obamacare insures more health consumers, patient volumes increase, and the traditional 9-to-5 appointment book of the primary care physician will continue to flood at an alarming rate. Increasingly, more overworked families find the convenient hours of the retail clinic attractive and take their families for sports physicals, sinus infections and minor injuries. Further, millennials, now the largest generation in the United States, mostly feel no loyalty to specific physicians but instead prioritize health needs around their lives.
Millennials, now the largest generation in the United States, mostly feel no loyalty to specific physicians but instead prioritize health needs around their lives.
Two emerging components of pop health are patient engagement and mobile health (mHealth). Retail health checks both boxes. Consider CVS and Walgreens, for example. Both have near real-time prescription text messaging alert systems, automated phone-messaging systems, and options for personalized phone calls from the pharmacist or tech if you have any questions. They have iPhone apps that allow you to check prescription statuses, refill prescriptions, check drug interactions, find locations, etc. Where they depart from traditional avenues of care and demonstrate the true “retail” value of “care” are their email campaigns, loyalty cards with points and discounting systems customized based on spending habits (including health and wellness goods). And truth be told, there’s no better “in-app” purchase than that Diet Coke you place on the counter with the Minute Clinic prescription just filled while you wait by the pharmacy counter.
It will be interesting to see the long-term impact of CVS’ decision to stop carrying tobacco products in its stores nationwide, let alone the ripple effect that will have on other retailers across the country. In another far-reaching move, CVS announced it was switching to the Epic EHR platform, which will not only help CVS connect its own home-grown platform across the country, but should also help connect its EHR to healthcare providers that currently use Epic, such as hospital systems and physician networks.
Your corner drug store is a healthcare provider at its core—that also sells retail merchandize; conversely, big-box discounters are retailers who have gotten into the healthcare business.
Ultimately, the reason your corner drug store is winning the pop health race is because it’s an ambulatory healthcare provider built on and using a retail technology infrastructure efficiently. As more healthcare providers continue to connect—to each other and to communities of patients—we’ll see this gap close.
The reason your corner drug store is winning the pop health race is because it’s an ambulatory healthcare provider built on and using a retail technology infrastructure.