Innovating to Provide Patient-centric Care

Here’s a look at how companies like CVS, Amazon, Best Buy and Walmart are innovating health care delivery.

Various medical professionals all connect on a diagram to one figure.

Patient experience extends far beyond the walls of a provider’s office or hospital room. Health care leaders understand this, and are innovating to improve relationships among patients, providers and payers with the goal of removing barriers to care and improving health outcomes. 

We see this shift even among nontraditional health care companies. Recently, CVS announced its planned acquisition of Signify Health, a home health care company; Amazon shared plans to buy One Medical, a primary care company and Best Buy purchased the remote patient monitoring company Current Health. Nontraditional players like these retailers could gain up to 30% of the U.S. primary care market by 2030.

Redefining care delivery: Walmart, Walgreens and United Health Care

Here’s how these companies are reimagining health care delivery and services:

  •  Walmart’s pharmacy operation works hard to improve its customer experience continuously. One example is the launch of the “Pharmacy of the Future.” The pilot includes state-of-the-art automation and an expanded suite of services to deliver the highest convenience and quality. Marcus Osborne, who led Walmart’s early efforts on in-store clinics, told Fierce Healthcare that the company saw challenges patients face with cost and experience. Osborne, a contributor to Harvard Online’s Digital Health course, views the clinics as an important part of Walmart’s omnichannel health care experience, which also includes telemedicine and digital tools.
  • Walgreens and VillageMD teamed up to offer primary care services within the pharmacy stores to help patients access quality care and provide reliable customer experience and convenience. There will be more than 200 Village Medical at Walgreens practices by the end of 2022, and at least 600 by 2025 — half of which will be in medically underserved areas.
  • UHC, via Optum Health, is providing care to customers through local medical groups and ambulatory, primary, specialty, urgent and surgical care practices. Services will include virtual and in-person care for chronic, complex and behavioral health needs, as well as financial guidance for cost savings and paying for health care. UHC is also working to offer lower-cost prescriptions through Optum Rx. 

These efforts illustrate that patient centricity is a key priority for health care organizations around the country. It is a complex cross-discipline and multi-stakeholder challenge. It requires a firm understanding of the complete health care ecosystem and deep knowledge of how to create a positive, patient-centric environment for people when they are at their most vulnerable. In a recent blog post, we explored the topic by turning to clinicians for their perspectives on how to humanize hospital visits and offer support at difficult moments in the patient journey. 

Patients interact with the healthcare system in myriad ways from caregivers to insurers to patient portals and pharmacies. It is important that each part of the system works well individually and that all function well collectively. After all, if a patient gets the right diagnosis and treatment but cannot get a prescription filled easily, that struggle will detract from the overall patient experience and potentially compromise adherence and health outcomes.

Harvard Medical School offers health care teams unique opportunities to learn how to build patient-centricity into their culture and business. For example, senior medical affairs officers from Amgen, one of the world’s leading biotechnology companies, came to Harvard Medical School to explore how to expand their use of health data including patient-reported outcomes and electronic health records. Takeda, a global pharmaceutical company, turned to Harvard Medical School to design and deliver a customized program, “Bringing the Patient Voice into Discovery Research,” to help incorporate stakeholder engagement at the very start of drug discovery and development.

The Harvard Medical School Office for External Education (OEE) leverages faculty expertise throughout Harvard Medical School and the entire Harvard University community to help health care teams develop new perspectives that can help them reach their goals. To learn about OEE’s custom programs, read about the approach or hear from clients themselves.