The Role of Retail in Revolutionizing Health Care, Part II

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The Role of Retail in Revolutionizing Health Care, Part II

By Dave Nazaruk - 06/17/2009
Of all the “critical touch points” retailers have with consumers alluded to in the first article in this series (Role of Retail in Healthcare_PG article 1), their most compelling in terms of opportunity to impact the health care system and U.S. economy is their ongoing, high-frequency relationship with and accessibility to all consumers. Industry statistics show that consumers shop food and food/drug retailers an average of almost twice each week, and those trips are within five miles of the homes of a majority of consumers. This relationship touch point is further enhanced by consumers’ opinions that pharmacists are among the most ethical and honest professionals, as well as by the increasing in-store availability of other health care professionals, including nutritionists, dietitians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
Health decisions — many of them subconscious ones — are constantly being made by consumers as they plan for and then shop their favorite stores, so retailers should be doing their utmost to help these shoppers think of them in more explicit, fully conscious ways as being active, caring, trustworthy partners in their ongoing health and disease management efforts.

The number of consumers regularly seeking credible, accessible education and tools to manage their own and their family’s health is vast, and represents a huge opportunity for retailers to have an ongoing dialogue and impact with these health-information-seeking shoppers. Studies show that a high percentage of these “health seekers” are well-educated, affluent baby boomers, who are both:

    increasingly aware of their own mortality (and, therefore, looking for information-based solutions to lead longer, healthier lives), and

    caught in the “sandwich generation” conundrum (i.e. they are managing their own and their children’s health, and are also assuming the role of primary caregivers for their increasingly infirm parents).

Consumers’ dual decision-making responsibilities regarding health care amplifies their need for reliable, highly relevant (to their particular situations) health information.

In their quest for health information, more consumers (81 percent of all Internet users) are turning to the Internet. Most of that health-information-seeking traffic is going to dedicated eHealth sites such as WebMD, effectively disintermediating retailers from their health-conscious consumers. In one recent month, the top five online health networks attracted approximately 74 million health-information-seeking consumers [m] all of them the retailers’ own shoppers — who are turning to these sites in the absence of similar health improvement resources that retailers themselves could be delivering.

Incredibly, eHealth sites are driving this level of engagement — and, in the process, diverting hundreds of millions of advertising dollars that retailers could be gaining from their supplier partners — without the benefit of any pre-existing relationship with these consumers that retailers have spent decades developing, or the direct monetary value that the same retailers’ existing rewards programs could offer to stimulate even greater participation through incentives — an aspect we’ll examine more closely in a future article in this series.

To read Part 1 in this series, visit Role of Retail in Healthcare_PG article 1. To download a comprehensive White Paper on this topic from Nazaruk, visit Get Role of Retail in Revolutionizing Health Care White Paper.