Publix pioneers an easier way to see the doctor

Discussion
Photo: BayCare Health System
Aug 28, 2018

Healthcare in the U.S. is changing, and retailers are offering a lot of services that once required a visit to a doctor’s office. As this new kind of healthcare takes shape, Publix has been exploring a new model that is showing signs of success.

As part of a collaboration with BayCare Health System, Publix began piloting healthcare kiosks in 12 Florida locations, according to The Ledger. The kiosks are enclosed in a private room where shoppers can teleconference with board-certified medical professionals to receive on-the-spot, non-urgent medical care. Customers enter their symptoms using a touch screen and then make use of tools provided in the room, such as thermometers, blood pressure cuffs and high-definition cameras, to give the doctor the data needed to make a diagnosis. One-thousand customers have used the service since the December 2017 launch. Publix will add kiosks to 13 stores in response to the success of the program.

Although addressing the inconvenience and high cost of arranging doctor visits for non-urgent concerns, seeing a patient via teleconference might pose some concerns. For instance, an accurate diagnosis could rely on the ability of an untrained patient to use equipment properly — and both the retailer and healthcare provider may face issues of liability.

The preliminary success of Publix’s healthcare pilot comes amid moves by some larger retailers to pursue healthcare innovation in partnership with providers, and speculation about even bigger impending mergers in the space.

Last year, for instance, CVS acquired Aetna. Walmart earlier this year was reportedly exploring talks to buy Humana.

And at least one major pharmacy where, in the past, customers would go primarily to pick up prescriptions, is planning on launching clinics focused entirely on services. Walgreens announced a new store concept that will bring together under one roof a range of healthcare service it currently offers at different stores.   

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you foresee more upside or downside to customers receiving medical advice via teleconference in grocery stores and other retail stores? Could set-ups such as this affect a significant change in the quality and availability of healthcare in the U.S.?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Easier and faster access at more locations will add to the built-in convenience of the neighborhood grocery store and other stores. "
"There is more upside to customers receiving medical advice via teleconference than downside."
"Certainly we have a massive health care cost problem in the U.S. — but cheapening it to the level of Walmart doesn’t seem like the way to improve..."

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20 Comments on "Publix pioneers an easier way to see the doctor"


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Chris Petersen, PhD.
Guest

As a parent who had kids with multiple ear infections, this would be a brilliant solution after hours. When you need medical confirmation for symptoms, teleconference could be convenient, increase access and lower costs. However, there is a definite concern about quality and misdiagnosis remotely. Quality must be addressed by the talent and training for the staff.

Interestingly, some doctors are moving toward “concierge service” where patients must pay extra to gain access to office visits. Public teleconference sites could be a way to enable more access to physicians who already have a relationship with patients. With skyrocketing medical costs, teleconferencing is a solution that needs to be thoroughly tested.

Mohamed Amer, PhD
BrainTrust
Mohamed Amer, PhD
Independent Board Member, Investor and Startup Advisor
3 years 8 months ago

Easier and faster access at more locations will add to the built-in convenience of the neighborhood grocery store and other stores. Digitally integrating the entire process and records from insurance through pharmacy and referrals within the network can bring potential reductions in the spiraling cost of healthcare while maintaining quality levels.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
Guest

This is a huge step in the right direction for Publix. Telehealth has been ready for prime time for many years and the the Mayo Clinic at the Mall of America has offered insights into how to operate successfully.

I especially like that foods and nutrition can now become part of the conversation and I’d encourage Publix and partners to develop a strong referral and even an educational program for specialty expertise such as dietitians, stress management, etc.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

Making healthcare more accessible is always a good thing and, assuming the liability concerns can be overcome (not guaranteed, mind you), adding these services to Publix feels like nothing but goodness for both consumers and Publix. This is another excellent example of retailers finding new ways to make the store a relevant and important part of consumers’ lifestyles.

Harley Feldman
BrainTrust

There is more upside to customers receiving medical advice via teleconference than downside. A large portion of medical issues can be solved quickly and conveniently in a retail store connected via teleconference to a doctor. In today’s busy world, and with consumers familiar with video, the evolution to teleconference medicine is natural. Over time, these teleconference video links will reduce doctor clinic visits but will increase the availability of healthcare in the U.S. due to decreased costs of clinic space required and making more efficient use of doctor’s time.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

I find this vaguely creepy, but I suppose it’s marginally better than going to an ER.

Our medical system is so, so broken, and it feels like these attempts to fix it are all avoiding the elephant in the room.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Nutrition and cooking classes, dine-in cafes, pubs, coffee bars, live music and dancing, and now this. Grocery stores really are becoming town squares, aren’t they?

Anne Howe
Guest

Tele-doc visits are extremely convenient for consumers, but it seems to me that the lack of privacy at retail would prevent many shoppers from using the service on a regular basis.

Jennifer McDermott
Guest

A change in the cost yes, but a change in the quality no, which I think will largely remain the same as any ailments that require a physical touch will be referred to an in-person visit. Overall I think this is a brilliant initiative which will make necessary yet non-urgent doctor visits more accessible, particularly to those who need them most.

John Karolefski
BrainTrust

This is an interesting program that would appeal to some shoppers. Referrals to a store’s dietitian or nutritionist for follow up when appropriate would make a lot of sense. If Publix rolls out the program to more stores, other grocers with pharmacies will take notice and start similar programs if they have the resources.

Sterling Hawkins
BrainTrust

Right? Such a great opportunity to recommend products as well based on the health condition. Of course, more serious cases would need to be seen by the doctor in person; the majority of the minor things will be easily taken care of and solved on the spot. Especially when these things start taking health data from wearables to understand key indicators over time. It’s a good move and I’ll think we’ll be seeing much more of this modern telemedicine.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

For minor cares, this might work fine. But beyond the flu, this concerns me.

The entire model seems built around the idea that diagnosing is nearly algorithmic. Yet doctors see patients in person to observe many things and to have their staff also observe. Like the way someone walks, their demeanor, etc.

Certainly we have a massive health care cost problem in the U.S. — but cheapening it to the level of Walmart doesn’t seem like the way to improve overall national health while controlling costs.

This seems like a gimmick that will make some profit without making a difference.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

For common illnesses or problems, this approach could work really well. Using this approach in CVS or Walgreens is one thing because that is a location sick people often frequent looking for remedies. However, will consumers in grocery stores when purchasing fresh food be comfortable having sick people with colds and flu trotting through the store?

Ken Morris
BrainTrust
Ken Morris
Managing Partner Cambridge Retail Advisors
3 years 8 months ago
Telemedicine is here to stay. The rapid expansion and evolution of telemedicine in the U.S. brings with it increased access at lower costs for patients and growing competition for physicians. The potential to benefit patients by expanding access to medical services and lowering healthcare costs is very real. Over 30 states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation requiring some form of reimbursement by private insurers for telemedicine services – many times at levels equivalent to in-person services. This could be a real sales increase for Publix. For busy individuals and parents with young children, it is often difficult to find time to visit a doctor for non-emergency and non-scheduled issues. The walk-in healthcare kiosks that are open from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. will be an added convenience for consumers/patients and will potentially drive more traffic to Publix stores and increase total store revenues. Hopefully the pharmacy staff that is available to assist patients using the kiosks will improve accuracy and limit the risks associated with inappropriate diagnoses. This is another example of… Read more »
Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

Every parent has faced the situation of a kid feeling unwell on Friday evening, and unable to reach a doctor until Monday. This new service from Publix should work well in certain situations, if the liability issues can be resolved.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Is there a huge market for this? Of course. Could this change the state of care? Potentially. Are the risks show stoppers? We’ll see, but my bet is, “Yes.” This strikes me as one of those good ideas that is a single “epic fail” away from bankrupting a retailer. Yes, for some minor conditions this may work, but it is too dependent on the patient giving the doctor the right information. What happens when you have your first publicized fatality because somebody was misdiagnosed, or decided to not seek additional care because their teledoc had assured them that they would be fine? Also the idea of cross-selling is great except that we can’t do it now because of HIPA restrictions. And again, without a real exam, even nutritional advice might be dangerous.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

The upside is that it is easier for customers/patients to get into seeing a doctor for something minor (as in non-urgent) without the hassle of going to a busy doctor’s office. Additionally, any prescriptions can be filled on the spot — on location in Publix. That’s convenient for the customer and makes good business sense for Publix. Online/virtual doctors are nothing new. Companies like MDLive are growing in popularity. Bringing it to the place where consumers shop is another channel for these virtual doctor offices.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Staff

This is another example of how store networks are morphing to provide new services — and value — to consumers. Retailers and developers have unique opportunities to revitalize facilities to meet the unmet needs of the public.

James Tenser
BrainTrust

Tele-health innovation is a promising idea, but the execution will be crucial. A big concern for me: How will the exam booths and the various devices within be kept sanitized? I personally wouldn’t want to use a touchscreen previously accessed by a mom with sick children.

The remote setup seems to transfer more responsibility to the patient to help with the exam. Good for some, but not everyone will arrive with the kind of health literacy or self awareness needed to get an optimal result. If a qualified tech is present to walk patients through the exam process, that might help address certain concerns. There’s no mention of this in the Publix coverage that I could find.

I also can’t help observing how the screen-based interaction could turn physicians and nurse practitioners into in-bound telemarketers of sorts, reading from scripts, and evaluated based on calls per hour.

Still, it probably beats sitting in an ER waiting room for hours alongside folks with various unknown ailments.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

We seem split (about equally into thirds) on this and I’m with the middle group. I think it seems great or at least “OK” in theory, but in practice (no pun intended) I see problems; specifically I see litigation over “missed” diagnoses and eventual pushback from the medical profession. Whether these will be legitimate concerns or simply obstacles to progress is open to debate, but I think they will inhibit further development.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Easier and faster access at more locations will add to the built-in convenience of the neighborhood grocery store and other stores. "
"There is more upside to customers receiving medical advice via teleconference than downside."
"Certainly we have a massive health care cost problem in the U.S. — but cheapening it to the level of Walmart doesn’t seem like the way to improve..."

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