Opinion: Retail health care lacks the personal connections that patients want and need

Retail thinking promises greater convenience and speed for delivering basic health care services but doesn't offer the doctor-patient connection that improves health.
Source: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Retail thinking is spreading quickly in health care. It promises greater convenience and speed for delivering basic health care services — but it isn’t what patients really want.

Retail thinking views patients as consumers: faceless targets for buying services and products that aren’t always health-related. It’s the thinking behind technology-assisted health care services, like ZocDoc, Amwell, and One Medical, which quickly triage symptoms or serve up medical advice. It’s the thinking that makes it possible for me to walk in, no appointment needed, to my local CVS or Target to have a cough or sore throat examined.

At the same time, it gives web-based apps some of your information to advertisers, who want to sell you other things. It gives brick-and-mortar organizations cross-selling opportunities for everything from allergy medications to Halloween candy as I walk down the store aisle to get my flu shot from the pharmacist or have the nurse practitioner apply guideline-driven diagnosis and treatment. The providers

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