Sitting at a traffic light in Denver a couple months ago, I noticed that a once-popular chain restaurant had permanently closed its doors. I hadn’t been there in years, and I wasn’t surprised. Consumer preferences are changing, and restaurants are trying to adapt.
This got me thinking about the parallels between the restaurant industry and some of the changes rippling through the health sector. Between 2019 and 2023, restaurant delivery is projected to grow at three times the rate of on-premises sales, with the majority going to digital orders.1 Although this trend does not end the need for physical restaurants, it has pushed the restaurant industry to adapt to new customer preferences. Hospital systems are also responding to changes in consumer preferences. Some of them are investing in virtual care and building outpatient facilities rather than adding more inpatient beds.2
I recently shared this restaurant/health care analogy with the leadership of a pediatric hospital. I explained that in both industries, change is being driven by increasingly convenience-focused consumers, new technologies, and tech-savvy consumer-focused companies that are moving in from the outside. After a few minutes, I noticed several heads bobbing in agreement. Just as some people might not want to wait in line for a table, they agreed that most parents probably don’t want to haul their kid into a hospital or clinic if all they need is an amoxicillin prescription to treat a throat infection, for example. Such routine care could be accomplished via virtual visit and, in the future, drones might deliver prescriptions to the home…just as robotic vehicles are beginning to make food deliveries for restaurants in some areas.3