With footprints in local communities across the country, retailers have the groceries, medications, pharmaceuticals and now even access to convenient, local supplies that consumers need.

During Covid-19, we have seen a systematic change in the way we access care. Nursing is no longer defined by the four walls of a hospital, doctor's office, or emergency room. New care delivery models have emerged, allowing consumers to access care more conveniently. This includes the now widespread access to virtually anytime, anywhere health care through telemedicine, the use of which is exploding as the pandemic progresses. More interesting, however, may be the emergence of opportunities for consumers to access health care locally in non-traditional settings, such as pharmacies or retail outlets.

In the past, consumers went to pharmacies and retail stores to buy products: groceries, electronics, and more. Today, these facilities are rapidly becoming full-fledged health centers. Pharmacies are expanding their on-site delivery capabilities and consumer retailers are rapidly expanding into healthcare. Walgreens plans to open 160 primary care practices by the end of 2022, and CVS Health expects to advance its care strategy by transitioning to primary care in the coming months. In addition, Walmart recently partnered with Transcarent, a new and different health care and care experience company, as the marketing partner for self-insured employers across the country, one of many entering the health care space. Other consumer retail companies, including Best Buy and Dollar General, are also involved in health care.

While retailers have become some of the most unlikely sources to help solve the enormous challenges plaguing health care today (health care access, provider shortages, and chronic care management, to name a few) , in fact, they are world-class health centers. With footprints in local communities across the country, retailers have the groceries, medications, pharmaceuticals and now even access to convenient, local supplies that consumers need. CVS has nearly 10,000 stores nationwide, visited by approximately 4.5 million consumers daily. Most Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart, and 65% of Dollar General stores are located in health deserts, areas where access to local health care is limited for many consumers.

Better yet, given that the largest U.S. household grocery shopper visits the grocery store more than once a week, and nearly half of consumers use at least one prescription drug, an increased presence of health care in retail stores and pharmacies can help generate more frequent points of contact with clinics create teams. As we continue to see such a shift in health care unfold, more consumers can receive the resources they need to take better care of their own health, whether it's through reminders for checkups or regular treatment for chronic conditions.

While there is optimism about the opportunities retail and pharmaceutical companies offer to increase access to convenient and affordable care, they cannot do it alone. The obstacles and failures of big tech companies around the world show how difficult it is to create lasting change in healthcare. As these players look to enter healthcare, they should not overlook the value that can result from partnering with innovative digital healthcare solutions that bring healthcare expertise and insight. Some possibilities for an association are:

Development of existing supplier networks

While establishing local clinics is a critical step in improving access to care, the continuing (and growing) shortage of providers makes it difficult to seek clinical support. Not only that, but the costs associated with recruiting, training, and scaling a clinical team from scratch can be significant.

Instead of setting up clinics that require separate resources, retail and pharmaceutical companies can form strategic partnerships with digital healthcare companies with already established networks. Take VillageMD and Walgreens. The two companies have more than 50 shared primary care practice locations across the country that leverage local clinical teams, supported by VillageMD, to provide community care.

Retail and pharmaceutical players can also offer on-demand healthcare by partnering with digital healthcare companies that specifically target underserved communities, such as: B. CityBlock Health, Waymark, or Oak Street Health. Other opportunities exist for partnerships with companies like MedArrive that are thinking creatively about staffing. The company uses a national network of EMTs, paramedics, nurses, NPs, and community health workers to provide affordable home care to vulnerable populations across the country.

Extension of the offer beyond primary and emergency care to include the management of special conditions

Much of the activity of the retail and pharmaceutical players has focused on primary or emergency care. However, with the rise of chronic disease, there is a great (and much needed) opportunity for these stakeholders to advance management of specific conditions more broadly. This is particularly important in rural areas where access to specialists is poor.

Instead of creating their own offerings, retail and pharmaceutical players can partner with digital healthcare companies that specialize in a specific subset of care. Companies like Brightline, NOCD, Hurdle, Uwill, or Brightside can bring much-needed behavioral health care to consumers across the country. Companies like Jasper Health, Carrot Fertility, or Papa can help consumers, their caregivers, and even healthcare providers navigate complicated healthcare experiences.

Creating ubiquity in health care

Just as many retailers have expanded their online shopping offerings in the last two years, there is a huge opportunity for retailers and pharmacies to expand beyond in-person healthcare experiences. Partnering with technology-enabled care solutions can help bridge in-person, remote, and virtual care experiences.

For example, Higi, recently acquired by Babylon, provides health station kiosks for supermarkets, pharmacies, and other retail establishments. With Higi, consumers can access and address their health needs while shopping for groceries or picking up a prescription. Text-first virtual care providers like CirrusMD can help keep consumers connected to their care teams from the comfort of their own homes, and provide 24/7 support no matter where they are. find. Additionally, home diagnostic companies like EverlyWell are making it much more convenient for consumers to access a variety of critical lab tests and personal health education.

The entry of retail and pharmaceutical players in health care presents tremendous opportunities to improve the current status quo. These companies have only scratched the surface of the opportunities that exist to transform health care. As retailers and pharmacies transform their healthcare strategies, partnerships with digital healthcare solutions can help companies see healthcare impact faster, effectively drive better outcomes and empower consumers. to be informed health care consumers.