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Retail and Healthcare: A Relationship that Today’s Technology can Promote, Strengthen and Expand

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Healthcare and retail are being combined in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. By one estimate, the U.S. retail healthcare clinics market is projected to increase from $2.79 billion in 2023 to $6.36 billion by 2030. Big retailers like Walmart and Costco frequently grab headlines for major activity in the retail health sector, but just as significant are the growing number of smaller players — from pharmacies and chiropractors to wellness spas and veterinarians, to name just a few — that are moving healthcare services into a retail environment, both brick-and-mortar and online.

What’s fueling this growing phenomenon?

Customer convenience is a top driver, but bottom-line benefits for retailers are paramount too. Providing healthcare services — such as Botox, hair removal, skin contouring and even facelifts — in a sleek spa environment means many who first come in for a one-time facial or massage ultimately may opt for more expensive healthcare services.

Costco customers can leverage the optical department to fill a new prescription for eyeglasses or get evaluated for new Bluetooth-enabled listening devices as part of a weekly shopping trip for necessities. Costco’s pharmacy also fills drug prescriptions for people and their pets. Meanwhile, Petco is opening veterinary clinics in their stores.

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Healthcare is even moving into the home with help from retailers. Best Buy, for example, has partnered with hospitals to sell specialized devices for acute care. Patients waiting for organ transplants now can prepare for surgery at home, something that used to require a two- to three-week hospital stay.

The retail healthcare industry is exploding. Customers love the flexibility (and frequently lower costs), and retailers gain by giving people more reasons to engage with their brand. Healthcare in retail preserves the convenience found in online interactions while giving patients access to what they need, which often means talking to a human provider and receiving quick in-person services.

Putting Today’s Technology to Work for Retail Healthcare

It’s no secret that traditional healthcare can be frustrating — for patients and staff — due to repeat requests for the same information, long waits, inconsistencies between estimates and final bills, insurance claim mistakes and on and on.

Retailers offering healthcare services can avoid these pitfalls thanks to a plethora of technology solutions and IT platforms, which facilitate the customer/patient experience from pre-care through payment. The purpose of these solutions is to streamline and connect the patient engagement experience from beginning to end. And today’s technology also helps retail healthcare to meet the patient where they are: either online or through in-person concierge service.

No matter whether it’s storing credit cards online for preapproved payments, using OCR technology to gather accurate patient data or sending appointment reminders that also collect patient co-pays prior to service, smart technology makes the entire retail healthcare engagement easy, efficient and more cost-effective.

Personalization is the cornerstone for providing excellent consumer experiences in healthcare (and many other forms of retail). Understanding what drives your customers — how they prefer to engage, their ability to pay, how they use technology — makes personalization possible. Smart data analytics yields this understanding at scale. From there, it’s fairly easy to match the best technology tools and messages to each patient for outstanding results. Some examples include:

  • Providing different payment methods, such as a QR code or link to an online payment portal. Including these options in a printed patient statement can encourage even the most technology-averse patients to dip a toe into the digital waters.
  • Bespoke statement designs and calls to action also promote faster payments. This personalized approach communicates an important “meta message” to customers: “We understand you and want to make it easy to engage with us for healthcare services.”
  • Messages used in patient statements, texts and IVR technology can be tailored to fit each patient’s financial profile. For example, some billing balances may be higher due to more complicated medical services. In these cases, retailers may need to infuse more empathetic messaging to those with higher balances and offer targeted and tailored payment plans or even patient financing.

At its core, personalization is about understanding how to contact patients in ways that will garner the best response, particularly when payments are due. Patient data analysis can quickly and efficiently create profiles or scores, including how best to engage. For retailers with vast contact information databases, such as customer phone numbers, reaching out most effectively could include:

Texting: For patients who respond well to appointment or prescription reminders via text, it’s possible to leverage that same technology with a different message: text-to-pay correspondence to resolve outstanding balances after the insurance portion has been rectified. Text-to-pay also can inspire patients to pay before they pick up a prescription or other healthcare-related purchase, giving them the same convenience offered by “grab and go” digital coffeehouse orders.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR): Most retailers have a base of customers who may not respond via text but will use their phones to communicate in other ways. This allows them to leverage technology already in use to facilitate medical payments. Both outbound and inbound Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is a cost-effective way to communicate with customers who also may be patients. My company is uniquely leveraging IVR technology in the pharmacy market by integrating prescription refill requests and status inquiries from customers with secure payment processing.

Patient Surveys: Retailers always want to know what their consumers are thinking, so surveys are absolutely essential. Quick three-question text-based surveys make it fast and easy for consumers to share their satisfaction (or lack thereof) after each healthcare encounter.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR): This technology allows patients to quickly and accurately complete digital forms, reducing the administrative burden on staff during the pre-service registration process. Using the camera on a personal device (cellphone, tablet or computer), patients upload images such as drivers’ licenses and medical insurance cards. OCR then scans the images and converts the content to text. This process can be configured according to retailers’ needs so the gathered information precisely fulfills specific data requirements.

Technology also makes payments stress free for consumers, while delivering revenue more quickly to retailers. Digital wallets — Apple Pay, Google Pay or however they want to pay — is a no-brainer for retail healthcare. For those who prefer to pay at home using a computer, a well-designed (easy-to-use) payment portal may be the answer. Portals also reinforce a retailer’s brand (and reassure customers they can trust paying this way) with easy to recognize colors, symbols, font choices and brand consistent messaging.

Retail and Healthcare: The Bottom Line

Each patient is unique: their financial obligations and payment abilities are wide-ranging and their technical savvy and responses to messaging varies. By understanding and respecting these differences, retailers increase the likelihood that patients will pay their bills and return for future medical needs.

Leveraging smart technology to make engagement personal, convenient and efficient will keep retailers in step with consumers, now and in the increasingly bright future of retail healthcare.


Valerie Mondelli is the EVP and Chief Commercial Officer at RevSpring, a leading provider of healthcare engagement and payment solutions. She has held numerous leadership roles with RelayHealth, NDCHealth, FiServ, Derivion and Eli Lilly. Mondelli has served on several boards, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, WVU’s Pharmacy School Advisory Board and Georgia State’s Young Business Leaders. She was recognized as a DSN Top Women in Health for Business Excellence in 2023 and by Hot Topics in 2016 as one of the Top 100 U.S. Sales Leaders & Operations Executives.

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