Is Retail Health a Pain or a Gain for Rural Hospitals?

Posted on May 7, 2013

Mike Milligan, President

Did you see the results of a recent poll about retail health clinics? Twenty-seven percent of adults surveyed said they used walk-in medical clinics located in pharmacies, superstores and workplaces within the past two years. That's up from just 7 percent in 2008.

Convenience and cost are driving consumers to big box stores for everything from hairspray to healthcare. That's not going to change.

Yet many hospitals will choose to buck the retail trend, hoping it will go away. The smart ones will choose to benefit from this "shop-'n-go-to-the-doc" mindset by building partnerships with retail health clinics. Here's why:

Retail clinics offer vaccinations, basic lab work and treatment for minor ailments. But many patients will need more advanced care. When they do, the docs at the clinic can point them in your direction - if you've established a relationship with them.

On the flip side, all hospitals, especially CAHs, are facing a shortage of primary care providers. Retail health clinics can help your healthcare organization fill a vital role in patient care. That's going to become increasingly important as accessibility and affordability take center stage as more than 30 million Americans gain health insurance next year.

Another way to leverage the growing retail health trend is to set up your own clinic-Oh yes, you can! I'll discuss that in my upcoming blog.

I'm currently at the NRHA conference in Louisville, so if you're also in attendance stop by booth 203 and introduce yourself! I'd be happy to talk more about retail health for rural hospitals or any of the other topics I've written about recently.

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Rural Hospitals and Retail Health: Is It Time to Go All In?

Posted on May 16, 2013

Buying a bottle of aspirin from a big box store is one thing. But swinging by for a quick diagnosis and a gallon of milk … Does that seem foreign to you?  Not to me - or over 25% of consumers for that matter.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, retail health clinics are growing in popularity. That spells OPPORTUNITY for your critical access hospital (CAH).

The fact is, healthcare is moving to a model where more care will be delivered in an outpatient setting vs. inpatient setting. That means a retail clinic can give your rural hospital the opportunity to break into the outpatient market.

I'll summarize in two words: "Access" and "Affordability." (And we all know where national healthcare stands on those two issues!)

Your retail health clinic can give patients another way to access you. It can let them get a feel for your services, which can ultimately influence them to choose your organization for their healthcare. Retail health also provides a way to manage healthcare costs by encouraging patients to use the most appropriate avenue of care.

Establishing a retail health clinic isn't just blue-sky thinking for rural hospitals. It's tried and true positioning for continued growth.

I've already worked with progressive-minded CAHs to help them make initial operational decisions. From there, we've collaborated on everything from site location and equipment purchases to financial management. Not to mention developing and implementing a targeted marketing strategy.

There's no denying it. Retail health is here to stay.

What say you? Are you all out - or all in for the win?

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Going Mobile

Posted on May 29, 2013

It's probably a no brainer to you that over half of adults who own cell phones have smart phones. But did you know that Strategy Analytics predicts that the next billion smart phones are expected to be in use by 2015?

These additional smart phone users are the reason your hospital or clinic should seriously consider creating a mobile app. Because apps can put your brand at patients' fingertips on a daily basis and allow information to be accessed on a device most people check hourly.

Plus, for a rural healthcare organization, having a mobile app will help people see you as innovative and high-tech-things patients often associate with high-quality care.

Creating a custom mobile app may sound complicated and expensive, but it doesn't have to be. Decide on three to five key items to highlight and you've already got the framework established.

Here are three types of apps that could benefit your current and prospective patients:

1. General Hospital/Clinic Information App

With this app, your goal is to provide basic, yet useful and important information to current and prospective patients. Things to include:

  • Location and contact information: Give people the ability to type in their address and get directions or click on a number to call.
  • Cafeteria menu: If your hospital is known for good food, post your menu daily or weekly to encourage non-patients to stop in for a healthy lunch.
  • Upcoming events: If you host regular classes, seminars and community education events, create a function that reminds people of upcoming events and provides an easy way for them to register to attend.
  • Highlight your newborn nursery: Who doesn't love babies?

2. Patient Portal App

Many clinics and hospitals already use online patient portals where people can schedule appointments, receive reminders and notifications and pay their bills. So why not make it even easier for patients to interact with you by making this portal a mobile app? Key features to highlight:

  • Schedule an appointment: Patients who set up an account through the app would be able to schedule appointments with their physicians.
  • Notifications and reminders: Patients can receive appointment reminders and notifications about prescriptions and test results through the app instead of by email or phone call.
  • Prescription Management: Patients can request refills from their physicians, look up dosage information for new or temporary prescriptions and find out what foods, beverages and other medications to avoid while on their prescriptions.
  • Bill Pay: Allowing patients to access bill pay through a mobile app makes it easy for them to look up statements and pay bills whenever or wherever they want.

3. Disorder/Condition Specific Apps

This type of app can help patients manage and go through specific conditions whether it's cancer, serious sports injuries or a chronic condition like diabetes. To pick the topics for these apps, look at what health conditions affect your community the most. This app could include:

  • Food logs for those who want to manage obesity.
  • Recipes for heart healthy and diabetes friendly meals.
  • Foods to avoid for those recently diagnosed with heart disease or diabetes.
  • Latest information on treatments and procedures.
  • Support groups where people with similar conditions can connect with each other.
  • Information about the physician or specialist at your hospital that patients can contact for appointments or questions.

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