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Use of clinics, other alternative care sites, swells, survey finds

At least $200 billion in current healthcare spending could flow to one or more of these alternative sites of care, survey author says.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

More consumers across all demographics are using alternative sites of care, including retail health clinics, urgent care centers and telehealth, according to a new online survey by management consulting firm Oliver Wyman. And many of those consumers are having good experiences.

Graegar Smith, the lead author of the survey, said the implications for the healthcare industry are huge.

"Providing a better care experience in more convenient settings, like a local retailer or a person's own living room, can boost patient engagement, and that can lead to higher satisfaction and better health," he said. "But if the 'new front door' isn't designed and executed correctly, we could actually see costs rise and consumer experience decline."

[Also: Retail clinics add convenience but also hike costs, study finds]

The national survey was conducted in late 2015 among more than 2,000 individuals chosen to represent key demographics including age, income, race and geography. The sample also had a mix of those with commercial insurance and Medicaid or Medicare, as well as health statuses ranging from healthy to poly-chronic.

The survey findings indicate that consumers will increasingly use these alternative sites in the future. As a result, Oliver Wyman projects at least $200 billion in current healthcare spending could flow to one or more of these alternative sites of care.

"But the promise of the new front door is not about moving spending from one site to another," said Smith. "It's about creating an overall better healthcare system and integrating these new sites with traditional ones to delight the consumer."

[Also: Zoom+ opens 32nd clinic, amid surge for on-demand, retail healthcare]

Among his findings, 70 percent of consumers are familiar with the concept of a health and wellness clinic within a retail store. A full quarter of consumers have used a retail clinic, representing an 11 percentage-point increase from the previous survey, which was conducted in 2013.

Fifty-seven percent of consumers, meanwhile, are now familiar with the concept of a health and wellness visit conducted remotely via phone, voice chat or video chat, the data showed.

Reported satisfaction was high: Nearly 80 percent of those who had visited a health and wellness clinic in a drug store, discount retail store or grocery store within the past two years said the experience was the same or better than a traditional doctor's office. Almost 30 percent said the experience was better or much better.

[Also: Nearly 3,000 retail health clinics expected by 2017, Accenture report says]

And people across many different demographic groups are using these sites -- not just the young and the healthy. The survey showed that 17 percent of 18-24-year-olds and 17 percent of those 65 years and older had used a retail clinic.

"Consumers have spoken," Smith said. "Now it's up to healthcare providers, insurers and retailers to build it in a way that has meaning, impact and value."

Twitter: @JELagasse

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