Friday, February 6, 2015

Whole Foods and Health Care?

There was a recent article discussing the possibility of Whole Foods beginning to offer health-related retreats and health care to the general public.  Whole Foods is a store that offers many organic and minimally processed food options.  As the online article points out, Whole Foods has also been characterized as "whole paycheck," a very expensive option for the food and health and beauty items they sell.  The article notes that the opportunity to start a new line of business may be limited because of the current financial pressures being faced by the company as general grocery stores begin to offer options to compete with the products that Whole Foods offered at a lower price.

For the moment, suppose that Whole Foods does have the funds to start this new line of business.  There are some interesting questions to ponder.

First, one suggestion is short weekend retreats regarding health and diet.  One question is how this would differ from anything else that is being done by others in this part of the market already?  And would there be anything about an affiliation with Whole Foods that would make this line of business particularly profitable?  No simple answers there.  But if consumers view Whole Foods as a trusted source of information about healthy products and health in general then this may be a very profitable area as long as consumers have the disposable income and choose to make an investment in their own health this way.

Second, the article discusses the possibility of clinics much like the in-store clinics at Walmart and CVS.  The key here is that the article mentions what is very similar to other in-store clinics, the urgent, non-emergent care issues.  The other thing that is mentioned with respect to the in-store clinics is consultation about chronic conditions.  It is this latter point that interests me the most.

For years, there has been the suggestion and some evidence that receiving care from a single provider who can understand and perhaps coordinate care for a person's chronic condition (or for some individuals conditions) has value.  The one provider, usually a primary care provider, would then have an idea of all the medications, all the other providers being seen, and all the regimens that have been given to the patient.  The opportunity to coordinate care is expected to help to limit complications and to control the cost.

Having someone to ask questions about chronic conditions is a good thing.  Having someone to ask questions about a chronic condition whose practice style might be in line with the philosophy of Whole Foods and who has a focus on nutrition could, perhaps, be a very good thing.  The ultimate question is whether or not this would be in concert with or somehow become a problem when paired with primary care provided by someone else.  Or would the provider at the Whole Foods become the primary care provider for the chronic care patients who stop in?

Then, how would this be paid for?  Would insurers cover it? Would prices be set higher than other in-store providers and continue to attract patients?

It will be interesting to see if Whole Foods proceeds with this idea and what comes of it.  

1 comment: