4 advantages of adding retail to the healthcare experience

November 2, 2018

Retail is changing the perception of going to the hospital—and provides benefits to patients, families, visitors, staff, and the client


By Douglas King and Randy Edwards

The worlds of healthcare and retail overlap, and increasingly so, as healthcare is transitioning to more of a campus and destination for patrons. Patients, families, visitors, staff, and the surrounding neighborhood will all reap the benefits of adding retail to your healthcare environment, and you shortly after, will too. Having previously collaborated with Northwestern Memorial Hospital on integrating retail throughout their campus, we’ve found there are four advantages of adding retail to the healthcare experience.


1. Enhance your patient, visitor, and employee experience

Generally, 50 percent of patients leaving a hospital do not fill the prescriptions they were just prescribed. Providing a patient-focused retail center, such as Walgreens, for your facility allows patients the convenience of a full, easy healthcare transaction while saving them time and money. This also connects the patient and healthcare workers to the information they need to maintain and improve their health. Patients who understand their treatment plan are less likely to be readmitted.

Taking it one step further, our biophilic design for the Walgreens at Northwestern Memorial Hospital creates a sense of place that promotes wellness and serenity. Not only are patients pleased with the flow of their experience, but they are left in a more peaceful mindset than they personally may feel.

Employees and visitors also have access to the open space and healthy food choices. This provides them with the opportunity to get other work done or catch up on their personal life while not having to worry about going off-campus to grab lunch or dinner.


First-of-its-kind drugstore creates a unique retail environment at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.


2. Create brand loyalty from the patients and the community

Creating brand loyalty is beneficial for both the healthcare facility and the retailers. Northwestern’s campus has an influx of more than 4 million visitors a year. That is a potential 4 million customers for retailers connected to this environment. Au Bon Pain was first introduced in Northwestern’s Feinberg-Galter Pavilion, and now it successfully resides in more than 300 healthcare facilities, even specifically offering Au Bon Pain healthcare “franchises” on their website. This demonstrates the ability to build early career brand allegiances with medical residents and patients is smart business.


3. Change the perception of the hospital visit

Changing the perception of “going to the hospital” is increasingly important, as hospitals are being challenged through revised national reimbursement programs (Medicare and Medicaid) to provide more proactive care opportunities for their patients. Any measure healthcare facilities can take to encourage patients and staff to seek healthy living and health education is extremely important. We call this “making the borders of the healthcare facility more permeable.”

_q_tweetable:Any measure healthcare facilities can take to encourage patients and staff to seek healthy living and health education is extremely important._q_

When a healthcare facility leverages retail, they are increasingly seen as a place and destination as well. For example, the Shop & Dine at Northwestern, a 70,000-square-foot retail expansion in Feinberg-Galter Pavilion, has more than 20 healthful retail vendors for visitors and staff to enjoy on the campus. Found on the first two levels, this program has also grown to accommodate the neighborhood for lunch, dinner, or their quick shopping needs. Patients now can not only head to Northwestern for their doctor’s appointment, but they can also meet a friend for lunch at Beatrix afterwards or stop by to grab a few necessities at Walgreens.

The Shop & Dine concept provides positive experiences for patients, families and staff by providing a sense of familiarity in an atmosphere that can be trying at times. The concept allows for an easy distraction or outlet to relax and catch up on work if needed.


A rendering of hospital cafeteria design. (Credit: Kiku Obata & Company) 


4. Adapt to the community

The future of healthcare design needs to respond to a growing mobile society. The public spaces of a healthcare facility are increasingly becoming a community hub. Today, patients are taking Uber or Lyft as a means of transportation to their appointment. They may need to catch up on emails or work and while in the public space, grab a bite to eat at a facility with healthy food options before or after their medical visit.

The integration of retail uses within the healthcare facility contributes considerably to the quality of the experience felt by visitors, patients, staff, and the community when visiting the hospital. Not only is the bottom line enhanced for your institution, but visitors feel more satisfaction knowing they have healthy meal options and a convenient pharmacy to fill their prescription as they leave their appointment.


About the authors

Douglas King is a leader in Stantec’s health practice with extensive experience in healthcare design for institutions covering a broad range of delivery including Northwestern Medicine—a top five academic medical center and the Veteran’s Administration.

Randy Edwards is a principal health leader for our southcentral region. With over 37 years of experience, he has a robust global portfolio allowing him to be an expert on the international perspectives in patient experience.

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