The Shift of Healthcare to Retail

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By Tatiana Guimaraes

Today, it’s all about convenience. It seems we are constantly busy and our priority as consumers is an enjoyable, smooth customer experience that causes as little stress as possible, so that we can get to the next thing on our seemingly endless to-do list….and even better if it can be done online.

Industries across the board are adapting to this cultural shift. Whether it be restaurants offering on-the-go ordering through a mobile app or retail giants offering online ordering to try on and pick up in store. The Omnichannel concept is on the rise and allows consumers to have experiences both online and in-store that are integrated and dynamic.

It seems, though, that the healthcare industry is the last one to the party when it comes to adjusting to the new wave of consumers. Most Americans still dread going to the doctor’s office due extensive waiting, lack of convenience and the overall experience all caused by friction in the industry. Driven by patient consumerism, and trying to reach consumers in their daily lives, healthcare institutions have veered toward an outpatient environment. There are various forces driving this trend such as demographics, insurance and reimbursements models, market share and accessibility but the most significant factor is consumerism. Which is turning healthcare into a transaction, shifting the focus from caring for a patient to delivery of a commodity. 

What might be the solution to provide consumers a more pleasant experience? What opportunities does this problem present and to whom? 

In this rapidly changing healthcare delivery system, the focus should be on convenience, quality and reasonable cost for services. We must discern ways to bring high quality, accessible and affordable health to the heart of the communities we serve. Available to all, our healthcare settings need to be seen not only as of healing but also focus on health and wellness, with our staff as part of a community of caring. 

The opportunity for architectural and design teams working in healthcare environments is glaring. Designing a new healthcare facility can be more than just a place for medical care…it can become a community hub that makes doctor’s visits enjoyable. Healthcare innovators, customer experience strategists and healthcare architects recognize that retail principles can applied to healthcare. At the end of the day, it is all about the consumer, the ability to engage and customize their care and their experience. 

There are several disruptive trends revolutionizing healthcare and pushing it towards the retail model. As we continue to see demographic shifts, society changing and technological advances, consumers are becoming more empowered resulting in new business models and the rise of new entrants in the health and healthcare field. Therefore, the healthcare outpatient trends we need to focus on are market dispersion, community engagement, convenience, accessibility, technology and wellness.

As the industry changes, spending is changing along with it. That means, healthcare facilities have the resources to adapt. As designers, we can help reposition the healthcare system and consolidate physicians’ practices and medical campuses based on the influence of younger consumers and cultural norms. We can help facilitate solutions by implementing retail trends such as omnichannel strategies, technology/digitization and personalized experiences in our designs for new health hubs. Combining technology, use of devices and telemedicine with the patient experience is critical to adapt to the future.   

When you think about the typology of a mall or retail center, you have one or two anchor stores, think Bloomingdales or Macy’s, stores, kiosks and dining. Kiosks provide easy access, quick service, convenience and capture your attention. Stores are consistent and standardized with branding and visibility in the market. Anchor stores contain branding as a collection of brands that reflect a certain type of customer, are the major attraction and the crucial financial component. All together, these things make up a self-contained, all-in-one shopping center with robust services that entertain. Now, start thinking about outpatient healthcare under that same mentality. Apply this to healthcare and you have designed a multi-channel process that interconnects just like the stores you are shopping in at a mall. A health and wellness community hub like this will become part of regular day-to-day life. In an effort to attract patients, healthcare institutions are now moving into this realm of mixed-use, combining their standard offerings with wellness, retail, and dining.  A ‘one-stop-shop’ for the modern patient experience. 

We can and should learn from retail, because we are not just designing another outpatient center. We are now designing a Retail Healthcare Facility. 

Designing retail healthcare centers as part of an urban environment using learnings from retail trends is how we will attract all ages back into the system. Among all else, easy access, technology, convenience and quick high-quality service is how we will disrupt the healthcare industry, and in turn, contribute to the overall health and wellbeing of our loved ones, ourselves and our society. 

Tatiana Guimaraes, CAU, ASSOC. AIA is a Planning and Strategies Senior Associate for Perkins and Will.

Tatiana has over 16 years of diversified healthcare planning and design experience. She leads planning teams in the creation of innovative healthcare facilities throughout the United States and abroad. These experiences provide her with consistent exposure to state-of-the-art health delivery systems from which she is able to glean fresh insight to bring to new projects. Her approach stresses the importance of creating innovative planning that maximizes operational efficiencies and allows for future flexibility and adaptability, with a focus on healing for patients, staff and families.

She is a frequent speaker at healthcare symposiums and conferences, recently speaking at the AHCA Symposium in Orlando, Florida and the GHEF Conference in Rastatt, Germany. Tatiana served as President of the AIA Academy of Architecture for Health. During her presidential year, her focus was on enhancing awareness in the community regarding the value the Academy provides in improving the design of healthcare facilities.

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