Five Strategies to Compete with Retail Clinics

January 22, 2015

Meet the future head-on with these five essentials for a successful healthcare service business (you can bet the retail clinics are using these).

Obamacare didn't just create a consumer market for health insurance through commercial health insurance exchanges. It has created a consumer market for healthcare provider services through rapidly increasing out-of-pocket obligations and a "cash on the barrel-head" mentality empowered by health and medical savings accounts (HSAs and MSAs).

Through the real world view of the non-partisan, non-commercial, non-political facts-as-they-present skeptic - Consumer Reports' feature, "It's time to get mad about the outrageous cost of health care" - you can see the real-life view of a public that is realizing it has been had.

Retailers like CVS understand these dynamics well. Their retail clinics aren't just a fad. They are a core strategy and they will do everything right for today's healthcare market that you are doing wrong, and they will own you if you don't counter their advantages with your own.

That reality is gathering speed and going downhill, and, like the gradual heating of a pot on the stove, it is boiling traditional medicine before we even realize that we are being cooked.

Meanwhile, back at the practice, the same parade of patients marches on, so consistent, so regular. Insurers pay. Medicare isn't going anywhere. Life goes on.

And, the pot heats.

With you in it.

Patients feel the heat, too. Now, they are beginning to have discretionary funds in the form of HSAs and MSAs. And, they are going to do what people do: shop.

And your old store with the secret prices and long waits and distracted, sometimes superior, sometimes rude, staff and punting to specialists and diagnostic tests that protect you more than serve the patient, are fast-acting poison.

Or, you can meet the future head-on with these five essentials for a successful healthcare service business (you can bet the retail clinics are using these):

1. Deliver access, convenience, and appreciation.
Welcome patients into your practice. Accepting them into it is hubris (fatal pride). They have choices. You are one of them. One of my personal favorites: "Call Us First" buttons, signs and literature all over a primary-care office. And, they mean anytime, any day.

2. Promote quality.
Forget the diplomas and promote your quality measures and results (percentage of diabetics under control, infection rates, relative hospital stays, etc.). They are the new measures of excellence. Good quality and results mean lower costs and better health. And, pay attention to social media. Your patients do.

3. Provide good service.
Ensure patients are greeted as they walk in and be on time or ensure staff explains why you are not. If they are not worth you respecting their time, they won't respect you. Or listen. Or come back.

4. Practice defensible medicine, not defensive medicine.
Engage patients, their family, and their caregivers as partners, not supplicants. And, if you order tests or recommend a procedure or hospitalization, engage them in the process, let them know what they are investing in, how much it will cost and what to expect in return - and the consequences if they don't.

5. Say what you do and do what you say.
So simple. So basic. So hard a transition from traditional medicine. Trust and transparency. Different from integrity.

Seem a bit over the top? Maybe so, but that's where you have to be to avoid being buried.