What merger madness and the retailization of health care means for health and wellness advertisers

The current merger mania among healthcare giants like CVS / Aetna, Walmart / Humana and Cigna / Express Scripts points to the increasing importance of the retail setting as a hub for health engagement, whether it’s grabbing over the counter medication, filling a prescription, or having a health screening or lab test performed by a clinician.

Further supporting this shift is the news that services provided at the pharmacy are expanding. Under a new law, effective July 1, 2018, Idaho pharmacists can evaluate patients and prescribe medications for certain common conditions, including cold sores, seasonal flu, strep throat, urinary tract infections and asthma. Albertsons was the first large retail chain pharmacy in the nation to offer the expanded services.

How can health and wellness marketers capitalize on the massive trend and opportunity presented by the “retailization” of healthcare?

Messaging patients inside the retail pharmacy is set to become more powerful than ever. This is going to be a point of influence where an increasing number of health decisions will be considered and potentially made.

More than 140 million Americans shop at Walmart every single week; and a significant percentage of those visit the pharmacy. If the merger with Humana comes to fruition, the number of shoppers using Walmart as a key healthcare destination would almost certainly increase.

“For us, health care begins at Walmart because it begins where the patient, the member or the customer is,” Jodi Prohofsky, senior director of payer relations for Walmart Stores, Inc., said during a recent webinar. “And, they are definitely at Walmart.”

Self-service health screening stations – located inside over 2,700 Walmart pharmacies – provide a convenient way for shoppers to check their blood pressure, learn their type 2 diabetes risk, determine their “health age,” take a vision acuity test, and more. The multiple screens on the health stations present helpful information and product recommendations to shoppers while they’re at the point of care. More than 45 million shoppers every month are exposed to Walmart’s wellness screening stations.

A recent study on an in-store marketing program for an aspirin brand (Brand X) revealed that amongst Walmart pharmacy shoppers who recalled seeing the health station on their last visit, 9 out of 10 remembered seeing the screens on the health center and reported being engaged for an average of four minutes. This exposure effectively drives customer conversion. As a result, Brand X shared that this campaign delivered an approximately 15% sales increase year over year.

With the increase in clinical services offered at their pharmacies, retailers are creating an even broader opportunity for health and wellness marketers to reach millions of customers at the precise moment they are engaged with their health.

As the way consumers get health care continues to evolve, retail pharmacies are growing in their legitimacy as a key destination in the patient journey. Healthcare brands stand to benefit greatly by making the pharmacy point of care part of their consumer marketing strategy.