Why healthcare organizations should compete like ‘Big Box’ chains

Jeff Rowe
Why healthcare organizations should compete like ‘Big Box’ chains

Partially in response to the success of Amazon and other online retailers, Walmart recently announced it’s closing over 150 stores across the U.S., and one aspiring primary care providers says healthcare stakeholders need to pay attention.

In a recent column in STAT, Ravi Parikh, currently a resident in internal medicine and primary care at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, argues that “just as online retailers have threatened the dominance of Walmart, new entrants into the health care market threaten the dominance of clinic- and hospital-based doctors.”  He cites San Francisco-based Doctor on Demand, which provides access to video-based doctors who can treat common conditions like colds, sore throats, urinary tract infections, and sports injuries for a flat fee of $40 per visit, as well as Boston-based American Well, which offers telemedicine solutions for employers and health systems.”

Even Uber is getting into the act, having recently “completed its second round of testing of UberHEALTH, an on-demand service delivering flu shots in 35 cities. A proof-of-concept study of the first round, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, showed that more than 2,000 individuals received flu shots at home — one of the most common reasons for a clinic visit.”

The key, he says, is for health systems to learn how to “bridge the divide between our traditional medical behemoths and these innovative organizations.” After all, doctors learn to practice medicine in specific environments. “In medical school and residency, I’ve learned in the safe confines of the hospital and primary care clinic. But I also hope to practice in a novel delivery system that cares for patients where they are — not where it’s most convenient for me to provide care.”