It's not just about location. There's an urgent need—and growing opportunity—to reinvent the healthcare experience by adapting key retail principles to design outpatient “stores.”
There's never been a better time for healthcare leaders to think outside the [big] box.
According to consulting firm McKinsey, healthcare providers are experiencing a confluence of forces driving a significant move from inpatient care to:
- Distributed settings of care
- Locations that answer consumers' growing demand for convenience
- Lower cost, less capital-intensive care delivery systems
- Solutions that optimize scale within local markets1
To retail veterans, this sounds familiar. The retail landscape was once dominated by giant, multi-departmental, centralized facilities—enclosed malls and downtown department stores. Like hospitals, they were expensive to operate and drew from an entire market area for an extended visit.
We've seen what's happened to malls and department stores. As they declined, and consumers shifted their shopping patterns to more convenient power center and strip mall locations, the industry adapted by creating chains of accessible stores.
Similarly, healthcare systems will continue to move away from monolithic hospital settings to become more convenient for customers.
Healthcare is moving to meet people where they are.
According to healthcare consulting firm, The Advisory Board, from 2006 to 2016, inpatient hospital visits dropped 6%, while outpatient visits increased 20.4%. In the next 10 years, outpatient growth should increase 58.6%, compared to another drop of 3.7% in inpatient visits.
The number-one priority for healthcare CEOs, according to a recent survey, is growing outpatient market share. In fact, 60% of new healthcare facility spending is now earmarked for outpatient-only care.
A recent survey also shows that the top goals of these outpatient-only projects are:
- Convenient location
- Consistent branding
- Soothing environment and wayfinding
These goals are the soul of retail.
In response, forward-looking hospital systems are aggressively developing distributed, local settings that are smaller, cheaper, and more conveniently located.
A recent study reported that 81% of people are dissatisfied with their healthcare experiences2.
Instead of offering customers more of something they can barely tolerate, why not offer them a pleasant experience?
Healthcare businesses are designing "stores."
Some healthcare businesses have embraced retailing, making their locations indistinguishable from stores or spas—because this approach has proven to work.
Retailers are jumping into the opportunity, too.
Seasoned retailers know an opportunity when they see it. With the growing separation of outpatient services from hospitals, they're aggressively expanding into traditional healthcare offerings.
It's about reinventing the experience.
Healthcare innovators understand the need for a compelling, holistic customer-centric experience, building in efficient processes that eliminate sitting and waiting and invite visitors to engage and get inspired. Hours and pricing are consumer-focused, and digital technology and consistent branding are woven in.
It's about starting with the customer.
A retail-inspired design approach structures the architecture around the customer. It looks at the journey holistically, digging into experience mapping and opportunities to bring the brand experience to life, beyond just a logo and colors. This strategic, customer-centric approach helps decide what facilities are needed and how to design them.
Most outpatient care is ripe for an experience makeover, including: urgent care, dental, physical therapy, sports medicine, allergy, and primary care. Customers' visit frequency and desire for convenience make these specialties outstanding candidates for retail makeovers.
It's about making business sense.
Of course, it's not all about the customer. Leading chain retailers employ unit scale to promote visibility and accessibility. This means that while they design for the customer experience, they also design for scale, consistency, and ease of implementation and duplication.
If we design for the future of healthcare using retail design principles, 1 + 1 can equal 3, combining the best of both to create a disruptive offering: with incredible treatment options, engaging outpatient and wellness offerings, and a strategic, customer-focused approach that appeals to the whole person.
The future of healthcare may seem challenging to some, but for those of us who design for multiunit, consumer-focused chains, this is simply Retail 101. It's not only doable, it's been done for decades.
Today, the future of healthcare looks a lot like retail. Which makes it an opportunity to innovate like never before.
For more info on WD's approach to healthcare experiences, click here.
- According to management consulting firm McKinsey. From: mckinsey.com
- Source: “The State of Consumer Healthcare: A Study of Patient Experience from Prophet and GE Healthcare Camden Group,” from businesswire.com