Those are precisely the questions that Deloitte wanted to find answers to. And, of course, whether such a solution can indeed contribute to future-proof, accessible, and affordable healthcare. For this research, Deloitte surveyed 16,000 consumers from 15 European countries about their willingness to have healthcare interventions take place in retail settings.
Healthcare Interventions in Retail
The research shows that partially shifting healthcare interventions to the retail domain, among other areas, offers a potential solution for alleviating the pressure on our healthcare system. Patients increasingly expect flexibility and personalization in the healthcare and wellness services they receive. Additionally, offering less complex interventions in a retail environment allows hospitals to focus on complex interventions.
Healthcare interventions that European consumers perceive as “comfortable” or “very comfortable” include cholesterol measurements (44%), diet and nutrition advice (41%), generic blood tests and analyses (38%), and sleep advice (35%).
“Offering simple interventions through retailers will undoubtedly relieve the pressure on healthcare in the long term. Meanwhile, healthcare institutions need to prepare to offset short-term income losses. Our research clearly indicates that European consumers are open to change if their comfort needs are met. This should be a priority for both retail and healthcare partners to keep healthcare in Europe affordable,” says Maurice Fransen, Healthcare Lead at Deloitte.
As the research reveals, consumers are particularly open to visiting a “store” for uncomplicated tests and low-risk procedures. Examples include cholesterol measurements (44%) or dietary and sleep advice (41%). Regardless of the interventions that become part of a retail model, consumers do have certain requirements for the store environment. Almost nine out of ten respondents (89%) consider hygiene important or very important. Eighty-four percent say they need healthcare professionals who are kind, patient, and understanding, while 80% indicate that healthcare providers should have the highest qualifications. Cost is mentioned later in their priorities.
Nearly one-third of all respondents (29%) state that short waiting times for appointments would motivate them to visit a store for a minor medical intervention. Consumers who showed the most willingness to seek healthcare in a retail environment are predominantly between 18 and 44 years old, with high incomes and no chronic illnesses.
Respondents were also asked about their level of dissatisfaction with their current healthcare. Twenty-eight percent of respondents are (very) dissatisfied with how quickly they can schedule an appointment. This is followed by the cost of interventions (22%) and the time between an intervention and the sharing of results (12%).
“This is also a great opportunity for retailers, strategically speaking, to increase foot traffic in stores. They can play a more valuable and integral role in consumer health,” says Adgild Hop, Market Lead Retail at Deloitte.
In addition to alleviating pressure on healthcare, shifting healthcare interventions also offers potential for retailers. Currently, Europe is the fastest-growing market for in-store healthcare clinics. It is evident that healthcare can benefit from collaboration with retail. By moving certain healthcare interventions to “the store,” part of the healthcare personnel shortage can be circumvented. Retailers are naturally customer-centric and could make consumers’ lives easier by serving them in a one-stop-shop environment.
Thus, it seems like a no-brainer to relocate certain simple and non-invasive healthcare interventions to the retail domain. Customers can do their shopping and, for example, have their blood pressure measured or pick up a prescription. Stores are ubiquitous, meaning that most European consumers only need to travel a short distance to find one.
UK Leads, Shift in the Netherlands
Lastly, Deloitte compared the results between different countries in the survey. In Italy, Sweden, and Poland, consumers appear to be the most dissatisfied with most aspects of their healthcare. Respondents from the United Kingdom and Ireland, on the other hand, showed a greater willingness to seek healthcare outside of clinics or hospitals compared to consumers in other European countries.
The United Kingdom and Ireland have already had experience with offering healthcare in retail settings, such as Boots and ASDA. But in the Netherlands, too, we are already seeing a shift. For instance, COVID-19 vaccinations have been administered at various locations outside of traditional healthcare settings, and today you can have your cholesterol level measured at various drugstores.
Last year, Lucien Engelen, Global Strategist Digital Health at the Deloitte Center for the Edge, advocated for a different perspective on our healthcare system. He also mentioned routine procedures that, thanks to technology, are becoming less complex and highlighted examples from the United States, where retailers like Walgreens and Amazon are making significant strides in digital healthcare, and BestBuy is establishing an e-health division.
Paying for Healthcare Interventions
The prospect of having to pay for healthcare interventions varies across countries and seems to be related to the perception of the quality of current healthcare. Particularly in Spain, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, consumers are less willing to pay extra for healthcare in a retail environment. However, paying for healthcare interventions is not out of the question for European respondents. Three out of four respondents say they have added premium packages to their basic insurance, and this applies to 73% of the Dutch respondents.
European countries differ in their opinions on which retail spaces are most suitable for offering interventions. Preferences lean toward pharmacies, drugstores, and supermarkets.
Make Healthcare Permanently More Accessible
The healthcare sector must acknowledge the urgency of its situation. There won’t be a natural reversal of forces: we are becoming more resilient individuals, yet our need for healthcare continues to grow. Nursing education programs continue to struggle with declining numbers of new students. The growing personnel shortage will lead to more and more overwhelmed healthcare providers leaving the profession.
The only chance to reverse these developments is to ensure that healthcare becomes permanently more accessible. European consumers are indeed open to change; they are willing to go to a store for healthcare interventions if certain criteria are met. Retailers and healthcare institutions willing to at least explore this path will likely discover ample opportunities, as concluded in Deloitte’s research. You can find the full Deloitte report, “One-stop shop: Where healthcare meets retail,” here.