A New Front Door to Health Care

Our sister company, Oliver Wyman, recently released a white paper on the “New Front Door to Health Care” -- namely, telemedicine and retail clinics. We shared their latest survey data on consumer perceptions and use of these newer access points for health care. While employers have incorporated telemedicine and retail clinics into their health benefit offerings and plan designs, it is important to think about how these access points will evolve as the health care delivery system continues to transform itself.

According to OW’s Sam Glick, “This year will usher in a new era of retail health. Retail clinics 2.0 will be different; they will be the hub of the provider network of the future. These clinics will still provide inexpensive urgent care at convenient hours and locations, but they’ll also provide insurance enrollment (like Walmart is doing); care coaching (a la Rite Aid); full primary care (as Walgreens is piloting); a community-health focus (like Target); and whole-health services (like CVS). The retail healthcare experience will be like the best of any other retail experience -- that is, tailored, affordable, and easy. In the coming year we will also see traditional health systems embrace retail care as an extension of their impact, not as a competitor.”

The advantage to employer-sponsored plans and consumers?  These access points are more convenient and less costly.  They also have the potential to provide coaching and educational support to drive healthy habits.

So what should employers be thinking about to maximize the benefits to themselves and their employees?

  • Communicate with employees about any retail clinics and telemedicine services available to them to make sure they understand what each offers and how the costs vary. Otherwise, they may not realize how significant these differences are. For example, the cost spectrum could range from as little as $40 for a telemedicine visit, to $70 for a retail clinic visit, to $150 for a primary care office visit. It’s also important to reinforce that an urgent care facility is an alternative to the emergency room, not for a primary care visit. 
  • Keep a pulse on what the hospital systems in your locations are doing. We know from the OW survey that people value retail offerings that are associated with a health care name they trust. Promoting these new options could also be beneficial.
  • Talk with your vendor partners about their approach to including these new options in the provider network and communications with plan members. 
  • Look for opportunities to link convenient retail resources to chronic condition management programs and communications. For some plan members, the personal interaction could have a significant impact on their success in managing their condition. 

More access points means more opportunity to have a positive impact on plan members’ health and health improvement efforts. In the busy world we live in, that’s a good thing!

Tracy Watts
by Tracy Watts

Senior Partner, National Leader for U.S. Health Policy

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