Trends in Construction: Retail Healthcare
With the advent of e-commerce, customers simply expect quality services at their convenience. When purchases made on an app can arrive the same day, patients are also demanding same day appointments and quality care at their convenience. To meet that demand, healthcare has responded by creating retail healthcare and clinics.
Historically, in order to receive health services, patients had to call far in advance to schedule an appointment with a doctor. They had to wait for long periods of time in a waiting room. They had to visit a hospital that was often a considerable drive from where they stayed. The whole process was exhaustive, so in order to remedy this, retail healthcare has cropped up as the solution. Healthcare organizations around the country are breaking ground on construction projects dedicated to this new aspect of the industry.
What Is Retail Health Care?
Retail healthcare is designed for two purposes. The first is to treat more minor illnesses that are uncomplicated and do not require extensive testing equipment or expertise. The second is to offer preventative healthcare services, such as the flu shot.
The idea behind these clinics is that many of the doctor visits that occur across America are for basic needs that can easily be met. They are geared towards treating the most common complaints for which patients must visit a doctor, including the flu, sinus infections, allergies, minor burns or rashes, pinkeye, head lice, ringworm, urinary tract infections, ear infections, and so on.
At their core, these retail healthcare establishments can be viewed like mini-hospitals. They provide health services to neighborhoods on a more micro scale. It is this smaller scale that is the backbone to all of their benefits. They are more easily accessible, both because they are closer to their target markets’ homes and because they serve fewer people, allowing a significantly reduced wait time. They are also less complex to navigate; the building itself is smaller and so are the parking lots.
The Rapid Expansion Of Retail Healthcare
The consumer demand that is spurring on the growth of these retail clinics is compounded by the private equity firms and corporate investors who are getting involved in the industry. In the last five years, the number of retail health deals has grown by an average of 34% each year.
The reason investors are excited about the new trend is that it offers a lucrative opportunity. The sector offers high margins and, because the facilities often have a narrower focus, they can be easily replicated and standardized. These clinics are also recession-resistant, with services that simply are not affected by any economic fluctuations.
But many retail healthcare operations are not just cropping up independently; they are tied to larger health systems and hospitals because these clinics provide healthcare organizations with countless benefits.
A retail clinic provides a healthcare organization with a little bit of extra real estate that can dramatically increase patient volume. It is a way to outsource minor services, such as vaccinations, allowing hospitals to retain their real estate for other services. The clinics also improve the patient experience by reducing wait times, both in the emergency room and at the retail clinic. Finally, retail clinics have much longer hours, offering patients flexibility and the option of not having to visit the emergency room for minor issues on weekends, holidays, or nights.
These hospital-retail clinic affiliations do more than just outsource health services or offer additional square footage, they create a connection between patients looking for expedient care and longer-term physicians. When retail clinicians see a patient, they can inquire about their primary care physician, refer them to a physician at their affiliate hospital, and even make an appointment right there in the retail clinic. So while a patient may have been avoiding searching for a PCP due to time constraints, the process can be streamlined and the hospital can have an entirely new source of referrals.
The Next Steps For The Retail Healthcare Industry
The retail clinic industry first started to crop up in the early 2000s. It did not take long for the trend to catch on. And while the industry has evolved over the last 15 years, its core offerings have not. The point of retail health care is to provide increased access, enhanced convenience, and greater affordability to patients. Various systems and processes within retail clinics are continuously evolving, but all transformations prioritize these offerings.
One of the biggest transformations that early adopters in the industry are embracing is virtual care. Telemedicine programs are growing, with some companies seeing increases of around 60% in the last year. This gives retail healthcare clinics access to patients who are in their home, at their office, or even in school. These video or phone doctor’s ‘visits’ allows retail clinics to easily fill open appointments during lulls in the schedule.
Another trend that is growing in the retail health sector is better data management. The idea behind harnessing the power of big data is that it will provide two advantages. The first is that when clinics integrate and maintain patient medical records, they can begin to provide better patient outcomes and patient engagement.
However, it is not just about patient data. The second advantage to managing and aggregating data is in regards to facility data: capital equipment, renovations, and construction projects. When retail health providers begin to effectively keep and analyze their facility data, they will gain the benefits of better inventory management, savings from volume purchases, and so much more.
With the introduction of data aggregation, retail healthcare will finally address their downsides: the inability to provide a more personal and relational experience for patients and the struggle to effectively manage capital equipment within smaller facilities.
The Road To Retail Healthcare Success
The list of benefits and the growth of the industry suggest that retail healthcare is a ‘sure thing’ to bet on for investors and healthcare organizations. However, while it can be a success, any retail health clinic or group of clinics needs the right support. This is an especially big concern if the new clinic is not being built from the ground up, but is rather being acquired. Leadership needs to ensure that all systems and processes run smoothly, including the billing system, the reporting procedures, and the management of capital equipment data. For investors or organizations who are building a new facility or renovating an old one, the right system to aggregate construction and equipment data is a must.
With a good roadmap and the right tools, healthcare organizations should expect limitless potential from the acquisition or development of retail healthcare facilities.