Vanderbilt and Walgreens: Delivering Great Patient Experience in Retail Medical Clinics

Vanderbilt and Walgreens: Delivering Great Patient Experience in Retail Medical Clinics

Nothing points to innovation like a retail healthcare business joining forces with a healthcare organization. This is the case for Vanderbilt. In 2017, the healthcare system partnered with Walgreens to offer retail healthcare clinics services within their pharmacy chains. This is just one of the many examples of symbiotic relationships between the two spaces that have popped up in recent years. Such partnerships show just how customer service and patience experience parallel.

Mississippi native Rob Tadlock, RN, BSN, MBA is the Director of Operations for Vanderbilt Health Clinic at Walgreens. With his nursing background, it only makes sense for him to oversee the endeavors of one of the largest pharmacy chains in the US. His presence speaks to the progression of modern retail healthcare. He talks with our CEO and cofounder Edward Shin, MD about what traditional healthcare can learn from this innovation.

It’s All About Convenience

Pharmacies have operated in the patient experience space for ages, providing customer service and addressing some health concerns, typically by offering counseling about medications. Now, they are presented with unique opportunities and limitations. Tadlock explains that patients in these settings act as customers, expecting an experience that many emergency departments and traditional healthcare clinics are unable to offer. Not only that, but in less time–even when they need a higher level of care or a primary care visit. “There is no quick hospital visit,” he explains.

While there may be space constraints that limit how many services an urgent care clinic can offer, they often work well and are preferred by patients. The interactions give a glimpse at how important convenience is to patient experience. Their existence often reduces ER volume, since many people have relied on them for basic healthcare needs.

However, quite often, people walk in requesting a certain prescription instead of an evaluation or treatment. Tadlock compares it to the Dollar Menu at McDonald’s–fast and easy. While that expectation is quite unrealistic, the perception of how their visit should go is different. They may receive the same care they’d get at an ER, but they value the convenience factor.

Covid-19 has further changed the landscape with text messaging allowing for easy appointment scheduling and cutting down on waiting times. Tadlock says that every clinic now has a cell phone to schedule and confirm appointments, and the follow up text messages seamlessly help patients rate the services they receive. Overall, the response from patients has been extremely positive, and these practices may be here to stay.

What does the future hold for retail healthcare ?

Growth opportunities abound for these retail healthcare clinics, but healthcare systems may have to evolve with the direction of the industry. There is a lot to learn from healthcare retail medical clinics, but Tadlock explains that the main thing that matters is focusing on the care of the patients. He also recommends focusing on hiring quality candidates who keep customers coming back.

“It comes down to what’s best for the patients,” Tadlock states.

The future of retail healthcare looks bright. Tadlock predicts that more retailers will swoop into the space, working with hospital systems like Vanderbilt to simplify and modernize the healthcare space. He expresses that he’s surprised that it hasn’t happened more already.