Unlocking the potential of retail-health system alliances: Viewpoint

Healthcare is facing significant challenges, including rising costs, inconsistent quality and unequal access, but collaboration between retailers and health systems could be a powerful solution to tackle these issues, according to a recent Harvard Business Review article. 

The article was written by Robert Huckman, PhD, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School in Boston; Vivian Lee, MD, an executive fellow at Harvard Business School; and Bradley Staats, a professor of operations at Chapel Hill-based University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Retail-healthcare partnerships are continuing to evolve. For example, in 2014, Target collaborated with Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente to launch Kaiser Permanente-staffed retail clinics in Target stores across Southern California. But the full potential of these alliances remains largely untapped, according to the article.

To improve healthcare, the authors said there need to be more partnerships between retailers and healthcare providers and a strategic reorientation of existing ones.  

The way many stores offer basic healthcare directly to consumers needs to change, according to the authors. They argue that these partnerships should provide a range of services to take care of people more completely.

"The healthcare offerings of many retailers — whether on their own or in partnership with health systems — are mostly limited to routine, one-off services such as taking a strep throat culture, treating an ear infection, or administering a shingles vaccine," the authors wrote. "Retailers have emphasized convenient care. But now they must shift to comprehensive care."

This approach would emphasize not only meeting the needs of individual consumers but aiding employers and insurers in managing the overall health and healthcare spending of the populations they cover, according to the article. 

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