The Convergence of Retail and Health and Wellness Centers

Retail is making healthcare more convenient. At least that’s a major reason why consumers are choosing retail healthcare clinics, according to one study.[1] For a long time, emergency room wait times and restrictive primary care physician office hours made it difficult for people to get immediate healthcare.

Today, supermarkets, department stores, and other retailers are incorporating these health and wellness centers into their facilities — making access to healthcare services, such as treatment for minor illnesses, lab work and screenings, easier than ever. As the trend grows, the lines between retail and health centers blur.

So why are more retailers including health and wellness services in their brick and mortar locations, and why are they so popular? How does the retailization of healthcare affect retail design and architecture, and what does it mean for the future of retail?

Exploring the Rapidly Changing World of Retail Healthcare Clinics

In the United States, the first retail health and wellness centers opened in 2000. By 2010, approximately 1,200 were dappled across the country.[2] Why the proliferation? With the rise of online shopping, retailers needed — and still need — more ways to increase foot traffic in their brick and mortar locations. By including retail health clinics, retailers not only increase customer flow into stores, but also open opportunities for improving retail design experience, cross-selling and increasing revenues.

Additionally, retailers have facilitated convenience and support for health and wellness center visitors — and that’s a major reason for their rise in popularity in the United States.

For Consumers, Convenience is King in Healthcare

When compared with other reasons for choosing retail clinics, such as speed of acquiring an appointment, after-hour care, and cost, consumers cite convenience as the main reason for visiting health and wellness centers in retail settings.[3]

Typically, centers are open every day from 7am to 7pm, and managed by healthcare professionals, such as nurse practitioners or physicians assistants. No appointment is necessary, and most clinics operate with a walk-in model. [4]  In addition, most retail clinics accept Medicare and Medicaid, and also accept cash, no matter the insurance status of an individual. [5]

Retail Health and Wellness Services

Besides the convenient hours and payment options, consumers also choose health and wellness clinics for their wide range of services. These services include treatments for common colds, pinkeye, and urinary tract infections, as well as physicals, lab work, screenings and vaccinations.

Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, an associate professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, says, “Quality of healthcare is another reason consumers pick retail health and wellness centers. We’ve found that the quality of care at retail clinics is equal to or superior to some doctor’s offices, because the clinics are more likely to follow national guidelines of care. Twenty years ago you had to go to an emergency department if you got sick and needed immediate care. Now we have an explosion of options, such as retail health clinics.”[6]


Retail Architecture for Health and Wellness Centers

What does this healthcare trend mean for retail architecture? There are a wide variety of features architects must take into consideration in designing health and wellness centers.

A typical health and wellness center is approximately 400 to 600 square feet and includes a reception desk, a waiting area, exam rooms, a lab and bathrooms. As retail architects, our goal is to create inviting spaces that make visitors feel comfortable while meeting meet HIPAA standards and other applicable codes.[7] In addition, there are a variety of other considerations, such as lighting and finishings, that must be accounted for to promote a positive customer experience.


Technology and the Retail Experience for Health and Wellness Centers

Retailers can also provide a positive customer experience by leveraging the latest hardware and software. Smartphones, apps, and wearable devices present a wide variety of opportunity to create unique retail design experiences.  For example, at  pharmacies located within hundreds of locations of one leading national retailer, customers can connect to medical-grade devices, such as blood pressure monitors, with their smartphones.

Combining retail health and wellness centers and technology can not only result in a unique retail design experience, but it could also promote ongoing healthcare via data-sharing between retail clinics and doctors. With the explosion of wearable devices like Apple Watches or Fitbits, there’s more reason than ever to get people engaged with health monitoring. In the future, it won’t be out of the ordinary for consumers to share their mobile health information to constantly monitor health.


Retail Health and Wellness Center Programs

Another way retailers can foster loyalty with consumers is through health and wellness programs. These programs include fitness classes, meal planning guides, and tips on how better lifestyle choices affect health. The services and support provided through the health and wellness programs allow retailers to continually engage with consumers and create a relationship built on trust.

Today, there are approximately 2,000 retail clinics across the United States.[8] According to Accenture, there will be more than 2,800 retail clinics by the end of this year, and the number is only expected to grow.[9] Jennifer Silvis of Healthcare Design Magazine says, “Moving forward, the industry can expect to see an even greater proliferation of convenient care clinics, and possibly some new innovations, such as drive-thru clinics where a patient can get a shot without having to get out of the car.[10] It seems difficult to imagine, but aren’t most giant leaps forward difficult to grasp before they happen?


The Future of Retail and Healthcare

Going forward, retailers will continue to provide groundbreaking services to consumers. As we witness the convergence of retail and healthcare, we will also begin to see another convergence: the merging of retail wellness programs, wearable devices, mobile data and communication between health and wellness clinics and physicians. For retailers, the challenge is to find ways to piece together and streamline these into a singular service that allows consumers to constantly monitor their health. Successfully doing so will not only help retailers build trust and loyalty with consumers, but also play an important role in their healthcare.