Are Consumers Ready for Retail Healthcare?

One key to reducing the cost of healthcare is to move as many services as possible out of the doctor’s office and the emergency room and into high-quality but lower-cost venues and channels of care, including clinics in drug stores, grocery stores, and other retail establishments and online. But do consumers actually want care in new settings?

This survey asked more than 2,000 consumers about their experiences with and preferences about care in non-traditional settings. Our findings: Most consumers are willing to try some new forms of care, but most have strong preferences about perceived quality, and about what types of healthcare services they receive at what kind of venue or channel.

Different Sites for Different Services

There is strong, broad interest in receiving care at alternative sites, but consumers, at least today, do not see all sites as equal. There is a range of preferences. For example, 79 percent of respondents said they were interested in receiving care for a minor episode in at least one alternative location. Unsurprisingly, 61 percent of respondents would be willing to go to a walk-in clinic or urgent care center. Thirty-six percent of respondents were interested in a pharmacy-based clinic, 24 percent in a clinic located in a discount retailer, and only 20 percent in a clinic located in a supermarket. The chart through the link below highlights a few “hot spots” where consumers are already well aligned with alternative care:

Are Consumers Ready for Retail Healthcare?

Chris Bernene, Partner Answers 5 Questions
  • 1What was the biggest surprise in the survey?

    We had really expected interest in retail and remote care to correlate pretty strongly with age and health status. It’s reasonable to think that older consumers would be more conservative about wanting a traditional doctor’s office, that the youngest would be more open to telehealth or virtual care, and so forth. But that’s not what the survey showed. Instead interest and willingness to try cut across both clinical and demographic lines.

  • 2Are consumers thinking a lot about alternative care sites?

    That was another surprise. We thought consumers would be fairly familiar with retail and other alternative forms of healthcare delivery. But only 15 percent of the people we surveyed said they had used a clinic based in a retail establishment, and more than a third weren’t even aware of retail clinics. The numbers are even worse for remote and virtual care: Only 8 percent have used it, and almost 60 percent said they were unfamiliar with the concept.

  • 3But they’re willing to try?

    Overwhelmingly. For example, four out of five of the people we surveyed said they were interested in receiving care for a minor episode in at least one alternative venue. But they aren’t interested in every kind of service at every kind of location. There are two sweet spots: on the venue side, urgent care clinics are attractive for most services. And on the service side, customers are willing to receive fitness and nutritional advice almost anywhere.

  • 4Why is that important?

    If you look at the market today, most retail players are trying to get into healthcare by providing traditional medical services in new locations. Though there's still a way to go, consumers seem to be moving in that direction: The survey shows there is a large, basically unserved market of people who want new kinds of health-related services, and they are already willing to receive them from a retailer.

  • 5How important is convenience to consumers?

    Some consumers rank convenience very highly. But most base their healthcare decisions on multiple factors, and they describe all of them as relatively important. Convenience matters, but it’s further down the list. On the other hand, a connection to traditional medical values is very important. Of the people who told us they were interested in receiving medical care at a retail site, more than half would be interested only if a local traditional provider was involved.