Health systems look to emulate a 'retail health' environment

As hospitals and health systems look to foster a more patient-centered approach to healthcare delivery, they are increasing their partnerships with retailers like Walgreens, Amazon and Walmart.

Retail disruptors often excel in delivering customer-centric experiences. Sara Vaezy, executive vice president and chief digital officer of Renton, Wash.-based Providence, told Becker's that companies like Amazon have done really well at connecting buyers and sellers, something the healthcare industry can also model. 

"In our case, it's connecting the clinician and the patient, or the system to the consumer with things such as content, information, tools and services," Ms. Vaezy said. "Patients are going to be online and they are interested in various different channels. We need to personalize and tailor our reach to consumers and meet them where they are."

By partnering with these companies, hospitals and health systems aim to leverage their expertise to enhance the overall patient experience, making healthcare services more accessible, convenient and user-friendly.


For example, Amazon's One Medical has partnered with several of the largest and most widely recognized locally operated healthcare systems in the country, from CommonSpirit Health's Tacoma, Wash.-based Virginia Mason Franciscan Health to New York City-based Mount Sinai. 

These collaborations between One Medical and local healthcare systems offer individuals who hold its membership an avenue to access more specialized services. 

"Increasingly, healthcare consumers want patient-centered care delivered where they are, when they need it, with access via technology-driven solutions," said Ketul Patel, CEO of Virginia Mason Franciscan Health and president of Chicago-based CommonSpirit Health's Pacific Northwest region, in a Nov. 9 news release. "This new collaboration provides One Medical members with access to the region's best specialty care providers, and together we'll be able to provide better continuity of care, a better patient experience and ultimately better health outcomes."

Despite retail giants being considered a threat, hospitals and health systems who have partnered with One Medical see the company as a complementary partner. 

"One Medical offers a broad primary care network with tight connections to our entire team of Mass General Brigham specialists, providing outstanding services for our patients and increasing access to care at a time when demand continues to outpace supply," Lynn Stofer, president of Mass General Brigham Community Physicians, part of the Somerville, Mass.-based health system, told Becker's


Walgreens recently partnered with Hartford (Conn.) HealthCare to introduce health clinics at specific Walgreens outlets, which marks the retailer's first clinic partnership with a health system in New England.

Under the partnership, five clinics managed by Hartford HealthCare will be integrated into Walgreens sites. The clinics, which will operate as Hartford HealthCare at Walgreens, are slated to open within a year and will provide primary care, screenings, vaccinations, telehealth consultations and additional services seven days a week, available for both scheduled appointments and walk-in visits.

"Hartford HealthCare is intent on changing the way healthcare is delivered, and this collaboration with Walgreens is another example of the variety of convenient offerings and care settings we are adding," Jeffrey Flaks, president and CEO of Hartford HealthCare, said in an Oct. 24 news release. "Our organizations are working together to combine resources and best practices to create an innovative retail health environment that meets consumers' needs and exceeds their expectations."

Approximately 78% of the U.S. population resides within a 5-mile radius of a Walgreens or Duane Reade pharmacy, according to Walgreens. 


On Nov. 1, Walmart signed its first partnership with a health system, Orlando (Fla.) Health after eyeing potential partnerships.

The two signed a care coordination agreement, giving the health system a better way to "quickly identify patient needs and improve outcomes" in the Orlando area, according to Cary D'Ortona, senior vice president at Orlando Health and president of its medical group. 

Just like Walgreens, Walmart has a distinctive opportunity to expand healthcare access, given that 90% of the U.S. population resides within a 10-mile radius of one of its stores, according to Claude Pirtle, MD, the inaugural chief medical informatics officer of Walmart Health & Wellness.

All of these moves provide these hospitals and health systems an opportunity to not only offer additional capacity but to do so in a more patient-centered, consumer-oriented manner. 

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