4 CIOs on retail disruptors' efforts to improve patient access, convenience

In the past decade, giant retailers and startups alike have tried to disrupt traditional healthcare delivery by increasing patient access and convenience, with varying levels of success.

Below, four CIOs from hospitals and health systems across the country share their thoughts on these efforts.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and style.

Brian Herrick, MD, CIO, Cambridge (Mass.) Health Alliance: The biggest retail disruption so far to healthcare has been convenience. Healthcare has been built based on what is easiest for the healthcare system to deliver great care. The introduction of retail into healthcare has people voting with their feet. 

Convenience is one of the most important factors for people choosing where to seek care and the big stores know how to deliver convenience. This competition has forced a paradigm shift for traditional healthcare providers — to start to think of care delivery from the patient perspective and move from great care to exceptionally patient-centered care. 

Zafar Chaudry, MD, senior vice president and CIO, Seattle Children's: Certainly the venture of Walmart into the health superstore space has been a shining light of how retail can disrupt healthcare with a model of keeping it simple, cost effective, convenient, patient-centric and helping to increase access to care in the community. Walmart has made use of digital tools to enable this but the challenge with speed of adoption by consumers to consume retail based healthcare, however, is that many consumers still prefer to receive healthcare services from their own doctor or hospital.

Ash Goel, MD, senior vice president and CIO, Bronson Healthcare (Kalamazoo, Mich.): The key to a persistent and sustainable model that creates disruption in the retail healthcare delivery sector is a set of wraparound services that acts as a consumer’s navigator, advocate, educator and financial advisor-in-chief while creating pricing alignment between payers, pharmacies, hospitals, providers and providers. This can only be done by taking on the whole set of products and technologies that provide the entire gamut of what a consumer might want. 

The current retail disruption that is happening is in parts and pieces of this continuum, as the financial models are not yet readily aligned to these consumer-centric needs. Various startups that have worked to pick up individual pieces (telehealth, pharmaceutical retail, employee health) but very few (if any) have considered a longitudinal approach to these services (which is where disruption will have to happen). Waiting to see if one of these will grow into such a dynamic disruptor.

Michael Restuccia, senior vice president and CIO for corporate information services, Penn Medicine (Philadelphia): I think the easiest answer to the question of identifying retail disruptors that have improved patient access and convenience are the telemedicine vendors.  For years, telemedicine technology has existed to advance access and convenience, but only recently has the reimbursement and regulations caught up with the technology. 

Perhaps, what is most intriguing about the posed question, is the difficulty in identifying successful retail disruptors in the healthcare industry. As we have seen, many prominent names have tried, not succeeded and learned in the process that healthcare IT is hard! It takes great commitment to be a disruptor in healthcare, so perhaps the Cerners, Epics, Meditechs are the true disruptors in this space.

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