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Three Things Healthcare Executives Need to Know About the Retail Environment


The importance of the retail setting as a hub for health engagement is increasing. Here’s three things you need to know about it.



The growing “retailization” of healthcare is a very real thing and shows no signs of abating. With mega-mergers between insurer giants and big retail in the works, it is becoming increasingly likely consumers and plan members will be spending more time engaging in their health in the retail environment.

Here are three things managed care executives and health plan quality managers need to know to take advantage of a new opportunity to engage members.

  1.  Every demographic in your plan shops at the world’s largest retailer.

According to analyst firm NPD Group’s Checkout Tracking Service, 95% of U.S. consumers shopped at one of Walmart’s 4,700 stores or its website in 2016. According to Walmart’s own data, this translates into more than 140 million Americans every week. According to Kantar Data research from 2016, women far outweigh men as the primary shoppers in the major retail chain environment. This is significant because women play such a prominent role in a household’s healthcare decisions.

“Wellness begins at Walmart because it begins where the patient, the member or the customer is and they are definitely [here],” said Jodi Prohofsky, senior director of payer relations for Walmart Stores, Inc., during a recent webinar co-hosted with Ryan Sloan, Pursuant Health chief revenue officer. “Walmart shoppers represent America. They are of all ages and all socioeconomic backgrounds. Today we’re partnering with many [health] plans who need to engage with their members and look to Walmart to help with this engagement because those members are already in our stores.”

This presents an opportunity for managed care executives to close the gap between perception of health, health risks, and ongoing management of chronic conditions for their patient/member populations.

“We might send a member an unactivated gift card with clear instructions to take it to a kiosk at a retail pharmacy,” Sloan said. “Our data center identifies it as a particular member who has a particular questionnaire or HRA to complete. As soon as the member answers the last question, funds are loaded onto their card that they can spend in that same store visit, which provides a real-time intervention opportunity, access to healthy foods and financial assistance.”

  2.  The healthcare/retail environment integration is not slowing down.

The current merger mania among healthcare giants like CVS/Aetna, Walmart/Humana, and Cigna/Express Scripts points to the increasing importance of the retail setting as a hub for health engagement, whether it’s grabbing over-the-counter medication, filling a prescription, or having a health screening or lab test performed by a clinician.

Further supporting this shift is the news that services provided at the pharmacy are expanding. Under a new law, effective July 1, 2018, Idaho pharmacists can evaluate patients and prescribe medications for certain common conditions, including cold sores, seasonal flu, strep throat, urinary tract infections and asthma. Albertsons was the first large retail chain pharmacy in the nation to offer the expanded services.

There is significant and increasing opportunity for plans to understand their populations and target specific interventions-especially for populations with chronic conditions-in large chain retail environments.

  3.  New data indicates shoppers spend four minutes engaging with the only digital screen in the pharmacy.

A recent study on an in-store marketing program for an Aspirin brand revealed that amongst Walmart pharmacy shoppers who recalled seeing the health station on their last visit, nine out of 10 remembered seeing the screens and reported being engaged for an average of four minutes. This is an unprecedented opportunity for plans to connect with their members and incentivize healthy behavior at precisely the moment they are engaged with their health.

The takeaway

If you want to improve engagement and incentivization with your plan members, and associated quality metrics, you need a thoughtful strategy to meet them where they are, while they are engaged with their health. The retail environment is increasing in its value as an engagement channel for managed care executives and quality managers. Amid the looming entry of Amazon into the pharmacy space, brick and mortar retail pharmacies will be seeking to enhance the role of the pharmacist thereby serving more closely as a one-stop-shop for consumers’ healthcare, general staples, and other health and wellness needs.


Jared Safran is vice president of quality innovation with Pursuant Health.

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