The sales concept of transactional vs. consultative selling is a useful framework to make physicians rethink their negative attitude towards retail medicine (e.g. CVS Minute Clinic) into something more productive or even positive. The graph below defines these categories of selling and buying that provide useful insights into what the buyer (i.e. patient) expects and how the seller (i.e. health care provider) can successfully meet those needs. (The Enterprise category is included for completeness but not relevant to this post).
The importance of recognizing whether a buyer wants a transactional or consultative relationship is that it is annoying and ineffective to provide the wrong type. I might choose to go to Amazon.com to buy a black BIC pen because I know what I want and I want it with the least hassle (cheap price, low fees). If Amazon tried push a consultation with me about what kind of pen I need, I would be annoyed and look elsewhere.
Patients are increasingly viewing components of their health care as transactional and are often not wrong to expect it. They want cheap, convenient ways to solve well-defined problems whether it’s a flu shot or an uncomplicated urinary tract infection. Retail medicine is doing a better job of meeting these needs than the average traditional primary care practice.
Physicians have reacted to the growing demand for retail medicine by trying to assert their unique value as health care providers - highlighting their greater ability to deal with complicated problems, build a relationship with the patient, and provide continuity of care. Essentially, they are trying to sell consultatively when the buyer is just looking for a transaction. This is an ineffective angle to redirect patients from retail clinics to traditional clinics.
Patient safety and continuity of care is a legitimate concern but these are questions of defining the scope of retail medicine (which illnesses can be appropriately transactional) and facilitating maximal referrals to primary care. Physicians should engage in retail clinics’ successful and safe execution rather than try to fight turf wars and broadly discredit the health care providers staffing retail clinics. To stay relevant and valuable to patients who are demanding a new paradigm of transactional care, physicians have to start from the needs of the patient.
DeVincentis J, Rackham N. Rethinking the Sales Force: Redefining Selling to Create and Capture Customer Value. McGraw Hill Professional; 1999.