Experts said health systems could learn from how retailers are working their way into service delivery.
“I think more traditional organizations are going to be challenged for patient consumer loyalty. They have to either step up, or they’re going to get left behind,” said Dr. Jay Bhatt, executive director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. Companies should consider their investments, unique partnerships, and potential for restructuring their business models to meet consumers’ needs, he said.
Some health system leaders are doing so by teaming up with major retailers on clinics or making pushes into new care delivery spaces, especially urgent care.
“The motivation behind that is really around scale, growth and being able to service the general population,” said Jennifer O’Brien, a partner in the mergers and acquisitions division at consultancy West Monroe.
Last year, Walgreens and New Hyde Park, New York-based Northwell Health—whose president and CEO, Michael Dowling, leads the 100 Most Influential list this year—announced a five-year partnership. Telehealth providers from Northwell are accessible through Walgreens’ Find Care platform, and the companies are considering a retail health clinic collaboration at certain Walgreens locations.
The health system offers urgent care, including virtual visits, at roughly 50 locations in the New York metropolitan area in partnership with GoHealth Urgent Care. This year, the companies teamed up with five Northeast summer camps to provide go-to services for campers and avoid unnecessary hospital visits. Northwell also offers home care services for patients through its Northwell Health at Home program.
CVS’ MinuteClinic partners with more than 50 physician groups and health systems, including Chicago-based Rush University Medical Center and Sacramento, California-based Sutter Health—both of whose leaders are 100 Most Influential honorees—to give their patients access to clinical support, medication counseling and chronic disease monitoring at CVS stores.
Abrams said these types of partnerships are a win for health systems, retailers and patients: Health system providers are staffing retail clinics; systems are generating revenue even as they give up some of their outpatient market share to the retailer; and patients have a better continuity of care.
By creating more care options through collaborations, providers at traditional health systems can direct resources toward patients most in need, O’Brien said. But she noted it’s important to ensure patient data are being shared safely among partners, such as by using electronic health records to securely transmit information.
Health systems are also purchasing or starting companies to try and connect patients with convenient care.
In 2014, Nashville, Tennessee-headquartered HCA Healthcare acquired CareNow’s 24 urgent care centers. It now operates more than 150 CareNow clinics in 10 states. The health system announced in January that it had purchased MD Now Urgent Care, expanding its services into 59 urgent care centers in Florida.
“The addition of MD Now Urgent Care in Florida enhances our already strong capabilities in a rapidly growing state by providing convenient outpatient care options for our patients,” said Samuel Hazen, HCA Healthcare’s CEO and 100 Most Influential honoree, in a statement at the time. “It also connects MD Now patients to a comprehensive statewide network of care, including acute care and specialty services should they be needed.”
Charlotte, North Carolina-based Atrium Health—whose president and CEO, Eugene Woods, is on this year’s 100 Most Influential list—has its own line of urgent care centers that also offer virtual visits.
The question for health systems is whether they can operate urgent care centers profitably, Abrams said. To do so, they need to hone marketing skills to bring in patients, maintain manageable operating costs and seek customer feedback, he added.
Meet Modern Healthcare's 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare - 2022