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The one-stop-shop revolution where healthcare meets retail

Article-The one-stop-shop revolution where healthcare meets retail

CanvaPro point of care testing
The widespread presence of retail spaces offers a competitive advantage in healthcare accessibility.

Globally, the healthcare industry is changing, with routine procedures now extending beyond traditional clinical settings. Retailers are seizing this opportunity, offering popular low-risk interventions like biometric screenings, prescription services and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. The widespread presence of retail spaces, coupled with challenges faced by declining footfall, offers the potential for a mutually beneficial partnership. As a result, the healthcare industry is experiencing a shift towards retail as patients start to bypass traditional intermediaries and directly engage with healthcare either online or in retail environments.

With most people still regularly frequenting shops, retailers, renowned for customer-focused approaches, can effectively cater to specific appointment requests, extending care beyond traditional clinic hours. Their adeptness in adopting technology also facilitates data exchange with healthcare entities. Advances in gene sequencing and AI open new care possibilities, with e-pharmacies delivering prescriptions, telemedicine platforms connecting patients with physicians, and home tests facilitating self-diagnosis.

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Last year, a prominent UK supermarket chain ventured into advanced healthcare offerings by becoming the first major retailer in the country to provide self-diagnostic test kits. Tesco now offers affordable at-home kits for conditions such as bowel cancer, menopause and thyroid issues. The kits were introduced for sale in 500 stores in February 2023. The deal, with provider Newfoundland, marks the first time self-diagnostic test kits for widespread health conditions will be available with any major UK retailer.

Newfoundland co-founder, Frederick Manduca, said: “With long wait times for doctors and hospital appointments and the very high price point of diagnostic lab tests, we’re offering rapid at-home tests that arm people with vital knowledge that can alleviate pressure both on the NHS and patients themselves.”  However, chair of the Royal College of GPs, Professor Kamila Hawthorne said making self-testing products available over the counter without prescription, “comes with pros and cons”. 

“They can, of course, provide some peace of mind for patients – and for relatively minor conditions, with clear and easy-to-access treatment options, they may avoid the patient having to seek medical assistance. However, without the appropriate aftercare services, patients may not know how to properly interpret results, or safely and appropriately act on them. In the case of more serious conditions, such as cancer, people may not have the appropriate support in place to deal with what could be very distressing news.”

Elsewhere in Europe, other retailers, such as Boots, ASDA, and DA, provide similar services, emphasising low-risk interventions, while Boots stands out for delivering advanced services requiring specialised training. While Europe has been relatively cautious, the US has seen major retailers including Walmart, Target, Walgreens, CVS Health, Costco, and Amazon entering the healthcare sector. This global trend showcases the evolving role of retailers in healthcare.

This surge in retail within healthcare is also being driven by wearable devices that provide real-time health monitoring and generate data that heightens our focus on well-being. These consumer electronics track various health metrics, from pulses and calorie counts to sleep cycles and blood pressure. They are progressing toward becoming validated medical devices, gaining approval under EU regulations and extending early diagnostics beyond traditional healthcare settings. Empowered by these technologies, connected consumers actively engage with clinicians through apps and online portals, responding promptly to health alerts and creating personalised and accessible healthcare. This trend offers patients greater control over healthcare access and utilises technological innovations for a more consumer-focused experience.

This shift signifies a departure from traditional models, with a renewed emphasis on understanding and meeting the unique needs and preferences of patients. From personalised treatment plans to enhanced communication channels, healthcare providers are increasingly adopting strategies that prioritise a consumer-focused approach.

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A new era of convenience in healthcare

One of the key aspects of the retail-isation of healthcare is convenience. Patients are now expecting healthcare services to be as accessible and streamlined as their retail experiences. This has led to the rise of virtual consultations, online appointment scheduling, and user-friendly mobile applications that empower individuals to manage their health with ease. The integration of technology into healthcare services is creating a smooth experience for patients, ultimately improving overall accessibility. This trend is breaking down traditional barriers to access by extending healthcare services into unconventional settings. Pharmacies, retail clinics, and even grocery stores are becoming hubs for basic healthcare services, offering vaccinations, health screenings, and routine check-ups. This expanded access not only caters to the needs of consumers but also helps alleviate the burden on traditional healthcare facilities, making preventive care more readily available to the wider population.

In a comprehensive study conducted by Deloitte, the receptiveness of European consumers towards healthcare interventions within retail settings was explored. The research delves into the willingness of consumers to undergo various healthcare interventions in retail spaces, shedding light on the potential convergence of healthcare and retail. The study aims to understand consumer attitudes towards receiving healthcare services in non-traditional settings, offering valuable insights into the evolving dynamics at the intersection of healthcare and retail.

The research indicates European consumers are open to changing healthcare behaviours for increased convenience. The alignment of healthcare, society, and retail interests therefore presents a compelling opportunity for collaboration and integrated solutions, promising improvement in patient lives, healthcare delivery and the purpose of retail professionals.

References available on request.

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