Retail disruptors face big strategy questions in 2023, says AHA

The American Hospital Association sees nontraditional players like Amazon, CVS Health, Walgreens Boots Alliance and Walmart owning as much as 30% of the primary care market by 2030.

new report from the American Hospital Association Center for Health Innovation explores how retail companies and tech giants like Apple and Google will drive transformational change in healthcare delivery in 2023 and beyond.

WHY IT MATTERS

With billions of dollars invested this past year, such as  CVS Health`s purchase of Signify Health, the AHA report highlights retail healthcare companies having grabbed significant market share in primary care, concierge medicine, virtual care and in-home medical services. 

They've also broadened their reach into pharmacy benefits management, behavioral health and other areas, said AHA researchers in the report.

One example is Amazon. While the company is in the process of buying  concierge primary  care provider One Medical for $3.9 billion – a transaction the Federal Trade Commission may move to block – the online giant recently launched RxPass. 

The new service allows Amazon Prime users in 42 states to pay $5 monthy for 50 generic medications.

Amazon is also pushing innovation that increases access to diagnostics and next-gen digital therapeutics. AWS has partnered with GE Healthcare on artificial intelligence solutions and is backing several digital health startups through its Healthcare Accelerator program.

Amazon may look to scale its primary care operations to compete with the major retailers and could seek to expand its relationships with hospitals and health systems, according to the report.

"The online retailer has launched Amazon Clinic, a message-based virtual care service available in 32 states for the treatment of more than 20 common health conditions," the researchers said.

Meanwhile, CVS Health's integrated care strategy is taking root, and leaders are taking calculated steps to further round out the portfolio, say AHA researchers. 

The retailer has already leveraged its ownership of Aetna to incentivize the use of CVS Health services. It is connecting consumers with CVS care teams and expanding virtual mental health and home health services.

AHA advises hospitals, health systems, providers and payers to watch for further engagement from the retail chain this year.

"The company plans to spend $3 billion to make further digital enhancements to improve the customer experience," the researchers said.

Walgreens too is expected to have a pivotal year with its "all-in approach" to healthcare, according to the AHA report.

With a $5.2 billion investment in primary care provider VillageMD, controlling interest in CareCentrix, which serves patients with complex or chronic conditions, and other investments, the company expects its healthcare operations to profit as it continues to build out a primary care presence.

Meanwhile, Apple and Google are looking outside the primary care market with their foray into the healthcare space. The tech giants will use their technology to build partnerships with payers, health systems and others, AHA says.

The question is, "Will patients be willing to consistently share personal health data they collect and own?"

THE LARGER TREND

The steady and often rapid advances by large retailers in healthcare delivery are challenging for traditional care delivery organizations.

"The net result is hospitals and health systems are caught behind the eight-ball on this transformation – in terms of geographic convenience, advanced supply chain, right-sized skilled staffing and marketing," according to Laura Kreofsky, vice president of strategy at Pivot Point Consulting, a healthcare advisory company.

In May, she told Healthcare IT News that health systems need to move to a proactive posture where they have inherent competitive advantages to leverage in their digital transformation.

"CIOs and other leaders will have to be more visionary and be willing to explore partnerships and platforms at a scale and speed that just two or three years ago seemed unimaginable," she said.

ON THE RECORD

"As these companies execute their respective strategies, they all share some common aspirational goals in contributing to the delivery of care that is easier to access, coordinated and affordable," said AHA researchers in the new report.