When the likes of Walmart, Best Buy and Amazon (and Target, Walgreens, CVS, Google, Apple, et al) started moving into the business of health care as part of their inherently retail product-based roster of services, many health systems knew they’d need to switch things up or die trying. COVID-19 has just sped up the process.

These providers know that retail medicine, done right, is about responding to people’s desires and preferences, aka “putting the patient first.” So how have mission-driven clinics and health systems been shifting to adapt to changing pay models and income streams to stay afloat and serve people in new or better ways? Here are three observations from our working relationships with innovative brands.

1. Cash Clinics

Our friends at Winona Health took the bold step of opening a cash-based clinic with transparent pricing. Winona Health’s Main Street Clinic could be an awesome option for people who have high deductibles, no insurance or just want quick “in-and-out” services with no hassle. And, let’s face it: clinics need the cash right now.

Winona smartly paired the new clinic service (that yes, really is on Main Street) with an existing eyeglasses shop, and followed the big box retailers’ lead in selling OTC pharmaceuticals and goodies you’d expect at stores like Walgreens and CVS. Here’s a tour they offered on Facebook upon opening.

Clinic and 2 women

2. House Calls 

Long before the pandemic, certain providers had been disrupting the traditional model because there’s a consumer need. DispatchHealth upped the ante by doing things with its mobile urgent care in recent months that others couldn’t or wouldn’t: dispatching board-certified medical teams to people’s doorsteps. Here’s what founder Kevin Riddleberger had to say about it in our June Campfire discussion.

It turns out they weren’t just innovating, they’ve been responding to serious patient needs in 19 U.S. markets, freeing up space in the ER and saving health providers over $250 million in the process. Their providers even partnered with food banks to address food insecurity by delivering to patients in need.

3. Virtual Care  

Telehealth has been happening for decades, particularly to help rural areas connect with high-demand specialty medicine. COVID-19 just made the future arrive sooner for health systems of every size and scope. When the pandemic made it impossible to see patients in person, nimble providers like Lake Region Healthcare responded fast—ramping up their telehealth model at a time when shelter-at-home and social distancing mandates were just hitting Minnesota. In this Campfire session, experts talk about the challenges of deploying a televisit effort that was still in the research stage while striving to help different audiences feel comfortable about seeing the doctor in a new way.

[Here’s how we helped create and launch a Virtual Visits campaign in 7 days flat.]

Telehealth delivery is aptly suited for mental health care, and the need has never been greater. The Zoom format has helped this partial hospitalization program for youth to not just continue its innovative approach to mental health and substance use treatment during COVID-19, but expand its geographic reach.

Likewise, our friends at The Emily Program, a national leader in treating eating disorders, say telehealth has given more people in the markets they serve access to life-saving behavioral therapy and treatment. The Emily Program’s Jillian Lampert discusses some spectacular ways that telehealth is impacting eating disorder recovery, and how they’re still learning to optimize the functionality for patients, in the Campfire session, Getting Patients Back to Care: What’s Working.


Just like big box stores make it easier to browse and grab what you want—faster and at a clear price point—health care providers are making it easier for people to get the care they need. The virtual visit is a bit like online shopping in that way, plus you don’t need a mask. But big picture, it reflects user experience desires that retail stores fulfill. Just like the cash-based, drop-in clinic. And the home-based care team that’s dispatched to your home. (Maybe we call this the Amazon model?) COVID-19 or not, they’re great examples of the changing face of health care in our material world.

How is your organization adapting or innovating? Are your actions aligned with your purpose—and serving the better interests of your organization, your patients and medicine itself? Do tell.