The New Front Door to Healthcare is Here

Our new survey finds consumers’ familiarity and use of retail health clinics and telehealth is on the rise. What does the arrival of the “new front door” mean for payers, providers, and retailers?

Over the past few years, there has been much discussion about the need for a "new front door to healthcare." In general, this refers to moving certain types of care out of the emergency room and doctor’s office and delivering it through more convenient means, such as a retail clinic, urgent care center, or telehealth. To gauge consumer interest in these alternative sites of care, Oliver Wyman recently conducted a national online survey of more than 2,000 individuals. The survey found that consumers’ awareness and use of alternative sites of care is on the rise – and that has tremendous implications for the entire healthcare industry.

The new front door is not about replicating today’s healthcare system in a more convenient setting. It is about bolstering today’s healthcare system with a variety of consumer-friendly access points. Our survey shows the new front door is here; it’s now up to healthcare providers, insurers, and retailers to build it in a way that has meaning, impact, and value.

Expect Consumers’ Use of Retail Clinics and Telehealth to Increase

A 2013 Oliver Wyman survey found that consumers were curious about alternative settings, but they did not have much experience with them. In fact, only 15 percent of consumers had used a retail health clinic and one-third was not even familiar with the concept.

In the two years since that survey, however, retailers have made aggressive moves into the retail health space. CVS Health, for example, has plans to expand its retail clinic business to more than 1,500 clinics by 2017. In addition, more employers and insurers have added retail clinics and telehealth to their benefit design.

The impact of these moves is evident in our survey findings: 70 percent of consumers are now familiar with the concept of a health and wellness clinic within a retail store, and one-quarter of consumers have actually used a retail clinic. Almost 80 percent of consumers who had visited a retail health clinic within the past two years said the experience was about the same or better than a traditional doctor’s office. Of those, 22 percent said the retail clinic was better, and 9 percent said the retail clinic was much better.

Interactive Chart: Retail Clinic Experience

Almost 80 percent of consumers who had visited a health/wellness clinic within a grocery store, discount retail store, or drug store within the past two years said the experience was about the same or better than a traditional doctor’s office.

Consumers like the new front door, and likely are going to start using it more and more. Based on the survey results, along with original Oliver Wyman analysis, we project that at least $200 billion in current healthcare spend is poised to flow from traditional venues to one or more of these alternative, new front door sites. As providers and retailers, and even potentially payers, venture into new business models that either extend clinical capabilities or begin to treat more of the “whole” consumer (via a full array of health and wellness services), even more care will move, and entirely new markets will be created. And that $200 billion could grow significantly higher.

The New Front Door to Healthcare is Here

Graegar Smith, Principal, Oliver Wyman Answers 3 Questions
  • 1What is the biggest change from the 2013 survey?

    In the two years since our last survey, more consumers have become familiar with the concept of a retail clinic or remote/virtual care. That’s not particularly surprising. What is really noteworthy about these findings is that people who used alternative settings found the experience the same or better than a traditional setting. That should cause providers, payers, and retailers to take notice.

  • 2How should providers interpret these results?

    The new front door is a growth vehicle for providers; and providers wield a tremendous new-front-door advantage in that they already have consumers’ trust. (Some consumers say they would use a retail clinic only if it were affiliated with a local hospital or provider.) But providers must recognize they are now operating in an arena driven by consumer expectations; what might have passed for customer service in the traditional arena won’t fly in the new, consumer-centric front door.

  • 3Does this mean consumers will soon be receiving all their care in the drug or grocery store?

    Not at all. Consumers were clear they're only willing to receive certain types of health services in alternative settings; and they don’t consider all alternative sites equal. (Some 20 percent said they would seek health and wellness services at a drug store, but not at a discount retailer or grocery store.) That said, retailers will play a significant role in the new front door, and with their existing customer base, physical footprint, and health resources, they have a starting-point advantage.