As healthcare continues to embrace a digital-first approach, we are seeing expanded opportunities for the intersection of retail and healthcare to create better experiences and efficiencies in how care is delivered and managed.

Originally published at VMware Blogs

By Enrique Estrada

Large-scale retailers have clearly identified an opportunity where they can transform to add new lines of business that include healthcare and wellness. While not easy, this market transition makes a lot of sense, and is something to pay attention to.


Let’s begin with why a retailer would want to go down this path. Pragmatically speaking, healthcare can be a challenging business to launch, but retailers like Walmart, CVS and others absolutely know they can establish more accessible and equitable care, especially as you find more of these storefronts outside of metropolitan areas and closer to suburbs and rural communities. Also, these large retailers already have built-in scale into their businesses so leveraging years of experience to scale outwards is something they know how to do better than many traditional healthcare delivery systems. Retailers are perfectionists in driving critical mass, and vectoring that with a financial model to reduce the cost of care is another reason why receiving care under this model may become a destination for many consumers.

All under one roof – changing the patient’s experience

There is something powerful about having a one-stop shop for most of your needs. As a consumer, it is extremely convenient to make one trip! If you look at what Walmart is doing right now and think through what a 5-year strategy plan could look like, this could be one of the biggest transformations in healthcare. Walmart has been on a path of building and operationalizing various in-store clinics over the past few years. With over 200 million[1] weekly customers visiting their stores for basic needs, you can see how their built-in scale could allow them to drive new levels of engagement and provide patients with additional options compared to traditional primary care.

To illustrate what a future consumer journey could look like, imagine you’re already at one of these big box retailers for your daily needs but have been feeling ill. For the sake of convenience, you walk into one of their on-site clinics. You are greeted by a clinical coordinator for the intake process that is fully digitized on a tablet or kiosk, and then shortly after that you meet the primary care physician for your consultation. Assuming the store offers a full suite of clinical services (labs, urgent care, diagnostic, imaging), you do your lab work and discover you are pre-diabetic.

The physician tells you that this is manageable if you make the proper lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, stress management, etc.), and offers you the opportunity to opt-in to a simple 90-day RPM (remote patient monitoring) service. The RPM kit provided includes a Bluetooth glucometer and scale that is off-the-shelf from their wellness center, and a personalized digital diabetes app that is certified to work with those peripherals. The modern app allows you to self-report your vitals (HbA1c, weight and patient surveys), and provides scheduled virtual visits, behavioral health coaching, dietary education, and exercise recommendations based on your personalized goals (a truly curated program that’s patient-centric). Just before the new patients leave the store, they receive a gift card to shop from the organic food section, fitness center, and wellness aisles to encourage new behavioral changes.

 All these services and engagement happening under one brand and low-cost payment model. One of the biggest things to note here is that this value proposition fosters a new retention service that is opposite of what most patients are used to and may become one of the many reasons why clinical retail is going to be the new disruptor for healthcare.

A Digital-first approach for CIOs in clinical retail

A few years ago, this concept would have been seen as very futuristic. There have been various barriers, adoption models, and reform taken into consideration. The ability to leverage a digital-first approach with various technologies has accelerated this concept to make it real today. 

Because quite a lot has shifted since 2020, the decentralized enterprise has allowed remote sites and staff to manage care just as efficiently as the traditional standards of care. This is primarily possible by virtualizing the desktop environments and allowing care teams to securely encapsulate clinical workflows from anywhere they may be (home, remote clinic, retail clinic, etc.).

While CIOs in this new environment have new things to consider, the good news is that the ecosystem is strong in healthcare and over the past 10 years we have seen the influx of new talent from eCommerce, financial services and consumer experience join the ranks of healthcare to solve new problems and launch new sub-verticals.  These CIOs embrace new cloud-smart strategies that include APIs to interoperate with existing systems, containers to simplify DevOps, and micro-segmentation to protect the data centers and Personal Health Information. CIOs should have some level of comfort that if carefully executed for clinical retail, their strategy to use the right tools, talents and platforms can be the enabler that makes many of these services drive the right quality of care, savings, and experiences for consumers/patients.

The new dataset in clinical retail

One of the biggest outcomes of this will be what the digital-first approach bears. As these retailers continue to build onto their digital platforms, we are going to see new datasets emerge that may become the crown jewels of Social Determinants of Health (SDOH). To add to this, as clinical retailers incorporate new models of care to manage chronic conditions, the real-time aggregation of clinical, claims, consumer trends, and retail data will produce new insights for futures lines of businesses in healthcare and life sciences that these retailers can participate in. New service lines around clinical trials and digital therapeutics would make a lot of sense as the next logical path.

Don’t go backwards

I am excited about what clinical retail can do, and all the value it can bring to patients. I hope retailers take the same lessons learned from the consumer experience and use that to improve the patient experience. Convenience does not guarantee your business model to work but does give you a head start. As retailers move forward, I advise them not to look at these lines of business as a retail transaction, but rather as a long-term relationship that can be built upon. Lastly, transactions are synonymous with fee for service, so it will be very interesting to see how value-based care can be considered with the path forward.

Contact us

If you are interested in learning more about how VMware can support your line of business in clinical retail or a digital-first approach to healthcare, explore our solutions. This post was originally published on LinkedIn

Jens Koegler

Jens Koegler is VMware's Healthcare Industry Director in EMEA. He is helping our healthcare customers develop and run modern applications to drive innovation and ensure better patient care through a digital foundation that includes data center, hybrid cloud, mobile, networking and security technologies. VMware plays a strategic role in the healthcare industry. Its leading innovations in enterprise software help ensure consistent patient care and reduce IT access time for healthcare professionals so they can spend more time with their patients. Jens plays a key role in helping customers understand how new applications, devices, the latest IT technologies and digital transformation are driving innovation in healthcare.