One-stop shop: Where healthcare meets retail


One-stop shop: Where healthcare meets retail

European healthcare services are struggling to meet the demands of a growing pool of patients

People are living longer, thanks to technology and healthier lifestyles, but they’re also developing new health problems, and being more proactive about scheduling medical appointments. Healthcare needs are increasing, even as we experience a shortage of medical personnel, costs are rising. A solution is needed before the patient pool threatens to overflow and render European healthcare inaccessible, unaffordable and less effective.

Where can we find the opportunity to provide more care, by qualified people, for fair prices? The answer may lie in your local shop. Inspired by a program called Health(care) Meets Retail, by Deloitte’s Center for the Edge Fellow Lucien Engelen, a recent Deloitte study invited consumers to share their views on visiting retail spaces for healthcare. The survey responses were encouraging, and retail-based healthcare may be the answer to the very large problem Europe faces. 

If people can go to a store for cholesterol tests, vaccinations or other frontline interventions, then clinics and hospitals could recover precious resources to direct at more serious interventions (which are only becoming more prevalent). It has the potential to be a win-win-win proposition, benefitting the healthcare industry, the retail industry and all those increasingly wellness-focussed consumers.

One-stop shop: Where healthcare meets retail

Healthcare meets Retail webinar | Recording of November 20th, 2023

What care outside the clinic looks like

Based on Deloitte’s research, as presented in this report, the potential seems strong for retailers to take up this opportunity; Europe is the fastest-growing market for in-store health clinics – spaces in retail stores that conveniently provide patients with medical services. So the door is open for retailers to tap this potential by changing their business models to accommodate a new revenue stream. 

The US has paved the way, with certain healthcare interventions (e.g., biometric screenings; blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose checks; prescription services) being commonplace in many large retail stores. Although no European country’s healthcare system is similar to that in the US, their patients share a common interest: receiving fast, convenient appointments and test results. In many ways, retailers are well placed to meet a fair chunk of those demands.

Retailers are already consumer focused, and could make their customers’ lives easier with certain spaces, devices and interventions that enable them to complete multiple errands in a single ‘one-stop shop’. Customers would do their shopping and also get a blood pressure check and collect a prescription, for example. 

What’s more, retail shops have the potential to accommodate specific appointment-time requests, they could adopt technology that enables them to exchange patient/consumer data with healthcare partners, and they can often afford to designate store floorspace for today’s compact, user-friendly medical devices. Plus, retail spaces are everywhere, meaning most European consumers will have only a short distance to travel to find one, and they frequently visit shops already.

Moving healthcare outside clinics and hospitals will clearly bring big opportunities for both the healthcare and retail industries

Lucien Engelen

What consumers want

The pandemic has led to dramatic shifts in consumer behaviour. Retailers will have to work hard to meet ever-evolving customer experience requirements, to remain competitive and relevant. Consumers want brands and retailers to connect with them, deliver on real issues that matter, and make a meaningful impact. Healthcare could certainly contribute such an impact.

We asked consumers about what particular aspects of healthcare are important to them. They expressed certain requirements: 89% of survey respondents said hygiene is important or very important, 84% said they need healthcare practitioners to be kind, patient and understanding, and 80% said practitioners must have the highest qualifications. Despite the many digitally enabled drivers of health and wellness, those consumer priorities are a reminder of the importance of the human medical professional. Three additional aspects deemed important all relate to time: how long it takes to get an appointment, the convenience of appointment times and how long it takes after an intervention to receive a result. 

Status quo: What needs work?

With regard to survey respondents’ feelings about their current healthcare, we found that those in Italy, the UK and France seem to be the most dissatisfied with most aspects. This indicates particular potential for retailers in those locations. In the UK and Ireland, survey respondents expressed the most willingness to seek healthcare outside the clinic/hospital; these consumers will already have some experience in receiving care in retail settings (such as at Boots and ASDA), which could explain why they are more accepting of the concept.

Survey respondents expressed specific dissatisfaction with how soon they can receive an appointment (28% are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied), the price of interventions (22%), how convenient appointment times are (15%) and the time between an intervention and results being shared (12%). Those are the same time-related aspects that were cited as important to consumers in a healthcare setting. So, if retailers can offer appointments faster, at convenient times, and provide results more quickly, the effect could be game changing. Almost a third of all survey respondents said that short waits for appointments would motivate them to visit a retail space. 

Patient-consumer pioneers

Consumers who expressed the most willingness to seek healthcare in retail environments were predominantly aged 18 to 44, with high incomes and no (diagnosed) chronic disease. These are patients who likely pursue mainly preventative healthcare. Considering the abundance of health- and wellness-focused apps and wearable devices these days, it’s not hard to make the connection between a young person seeing a health-check reminder on their phone and calling their clinician or interacting via a portal. 

Preventative care may not be urgent, but it’s sapping valuable resources from an overburdened healthcare system. The solution is not to discourage pre-emptive care, especially as early diagnostic measures are relatively less expensive than treatment down the road for undiagnosed conditions. But if young, open-minded consumers begin receiving frontline interventions in alternative settings, they could propel the rest of society toward the ultimate solution: affordable retail-based healthcare, seen as comfortable by all.

Simple interventions in the right setting

It can take time for patients to become comfortable with receiving certain interventions outside a medical setting, but history has shown that they will come around; there was a time when people felt comfortable receiving eyesight tests only in hospitals. That process of Europeans fully accepting healthcare outside clinics and hospitals will not come as a revolution; it will be an evolution, with all involved parties taking incremental steps. 

To kickstart the evolution, certain interventions should be prioritised for a viable initial offering. Our consumer survey respondents indicated they are open to receiving vaccinations, biometric measurements (e.g., blood pressure, oxygen levels, cholesterol); advice on diet, nutrition and sleep; and generic blood tests and analysis – in other words, uncomplicated, low-effort, low-risk tests and procedures. 

Regarding price, as healthcare infrastructure deteriorates and makes services less accessible and effective, consumers may become willing to pay more for certain interventions than they do now. But until public perception changes, retailers will need to provide interventions at a price point that is lower or similar to what consumers are accustomed to. If prices are competitive enough, retailers will find it that much easier to entice consumers away from the doctor’s office.

Out of the clinic, into the shop: Models of delivery

Four models are possible for the healthcare and retail industries to take the lead in moving interventions out of the clinic and into the shop: 

  • Pharmacies develop (additional) healthcare capabilities, by outsourcing part of logistical part to retail, freeing up time for healthcare interventions
  • Non-pharmacy retailers develop in-house healthcare capabilities
  • Retailers (health related or not) partner with independent healthcare providers to offer shops within shops
  • E-retailers use their broad capabilities to provide omnichannel healthcare. 

These models have already been realised in non-European locations, and the time is ripe for Europe to follow the trend before more strain is put on its healthcare system. To determine the most appropriate model, retailers and healthcare partners must examine their existing core offerings, strategic capabilities and strategic direction. They must also consider what will make the consumer the most comfortable and adapt any healthcare-devoted floorspace to deliver those consumer ‘must-haves’: hygiene, and highly qualified, kind, patient, understanding health practitioners. Convenience – of location and appointments – will also help win them over.

European countries varied in their opinions of which retail spaces are best suited to offer interventions, but the most preferred spaces are pharmacies, health and wellness stores, drugstores and grocery stores. All are worthy of entering the healthcare arena, but many other spaces could become trusted providers of retail-based interventions, including personal-hygiene and cosmetics shops, gyms or sports stores, spas, beauticians, salons and department stores. Many large retail chains could plausibly find success with their prominent reputations and widespread networks of branches, as could shopping centres and mobile health units.

Benefits vs challenges

Migrating some interventions out of clinics and hospitals will certainly alleviate pressure on the healthcare industry in the long term. However, healthcare entities must prepare mitigation strategies to address potential short-term revenue loss that may occur. European governments might follow the lead of other countries in allocating funds to support hospitals and clinics that struggle as they try to give up some interventions. 

For retailers, the challenges – particularly, changes in mindset and operational upheavals – must be weighed against the potential benefits of offering healthcare. The latter include increased footfall in shops: Almost half of respondents said they would either change their preferred retail location if healthcare is offered, or visit a store that offers healthcare when they need interventions. 

Another benefit would come to those retailers who gather data from transactions to better tailor recommendations; going beyond customers’ buying behaviours to know their health and healthcare behaviours can make data that much richer. Of course, it must be done transparently with full acceptance from the patient-consumer.

Time for change

The outcome of our study makes it clear that European consumers are open to change, if their needs for comfort, accessibility and convenience are met. Making them comfortable should be a priority for retail and healthcare partners alike; after all, it is the benefits to the consumer – continued accessibility, affordability and quality – that will draw them toward a retail-based model of healthcare. 

With all the attention being paid to wellness these days – and all the apps feeding us data as they test our pulses, monitor our sleep and record vital stats – surely the leap to another paradigm of healthcare is not too great. If we truly wish to add life to our days, not just days to our life, we would do well to fix the strained European healthcare infrastructure at a systemic level. Recasting our retail shops as healthcare spaces could be an excellent place to start.

Read all the survey results and recommendations by downloading the report at the top of the page. If you have any questions or would like to discuss opportunities for your company, feel free to contact us.

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