Health Care Reform Growth Opportunities for Retail

In spite of potential pitfalls with the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, many ways now exist for food and drug retailers to capitalize on the situation by leveraging their position to make up for deficiencies in the legislation around lowering cost while increasing access for the consumers they serve.

Of all participants in the overarching health care delivery system, food and drug retailers have by far the most direct impact on consumers by virtue of the following touch points:

•Relationship: Access, frequency of interaction and preexisting relationship of trust and loyalty
•Routine: A position as an embedded part of the vast majority of consumers’ everyday lifestyles
•Rewards: Ability to deliver powerful messaging and incentives to motivate desired behaviors
Retailers are uniquely positioned to impact health care and to leverage their competencies for enhanced profitability. Retail alone possesses the unique combination of capital and people resources, supply chain infrastructure, creative and technological expertise, and shared collaboration incentives to create a paradigm-changing solution for U.S. consumers.

In many U.S. communities, there are no doctors, clinics or hospitals, but there is a food and pharmacy store – boasting an existing infrastructure, professional staff, and the data necessary to drive efficiencies beyond other segments of the health care delivery system. Every day, these retailers directly impact the health and wellness of the consumers they serve, not only through the medications they dispense, but also by meeting consumers’ nutritional needs.

To that wealth of products, add the on-site clinical support provided by trained health care professionals -- including pharmacists, dietitians, and even nurse practitioners via the retail clinic movement. Retailers can legitimately claim to be on the front lines, guiding consumers through their evolving health care needs --  and are therefore best positioned to drive the very development and implementation of a new model of health care delivery in this country.
For these reasons, food and drug retailers have a window of opportunity to transform health care in the United States by participating in a virtual network that provides broad-based population health management programs aimed at wellness, through disease awareness, prevention and management -- especially in the crucial areas of obesity and medication adherence.

Such a network would effectively dwarf all other health care organizations and media outlets currently competing for share of voice, new models of care, advertising dollars, and emerging new business opportunities in the consumer health care space -- amounting to billions of dollars already budgeted for community, media and technology providers that can instead be funneled to retail organizations if the industry acts during this crucial opening to re-engineer health care.

Beyond the positive financial benefits, the resulting network would make a tremendous contribution to public health -- with all the attendant positive publicity and enhanced consumer goodwill such success would foster. Further, by adopting such programs themselves, retailers will be better able to defend against serious profit margin erosion as a result of rising health insurance costs on behalf of their employees.

Ultimately, helping consumers lead healthier lives will spark increases in retailers’ core business of selling food and drugs, as well as creating new and highly profitable revenue streams, four of the most promising of which are detailed in a new white paper, “Health Care Reform: Growth Opportunities for Food & Drug Retailers,” now available at www.

The author may be reached via [email protected].

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