Real retail ecosystem

Pharmacy is having a moment, and it’s coming at a critical time.
Nigel F. Maynard
Editorial Director
Nigel F. Maynard profile picture

If a January 2023 report from the Commonwealth Fund is to be believed, America has a health care problem. The Fund has the numbers to support that statement.

The report compares the U.S. health system performance to the high-income countries that are part of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, a forum where 37 democracies with market-based economies collaborate to develop policy standards to promote sustainable economic growth. Data for the Fund’s analysis come from the OECD and other international sources.

Here’s what the Fund found: In 2021, the U.S. spent 17.8% of gross domestic product on health care—nearly twice as much as the average OECD country—yet Americans experience worse health outcomes than their peers around the world. Life expectancy at birth in the U.S. was 77 years in 2020—three years lower than the OECD average. Provisional data shows life expectancy in the U.S. dropped even further in 2021.

The Fund also reported that people in the United States experience the worst health outcomes overall of any high-income nation. We have among the lowest rates of physician visits and practicing physicians, and the obesity rate is nearly double the OECD average. As a result, Americans are more likely to die younger (and from avoidable causes) than residents of peer countries.

This is an opportunity for retail pharmacy to step up and provide much-needed support to the health care system. It proved its mettle during the pandemic and is expanding into clinical services, including testing for strep and flu, smoking cessation counseling, diabetes prevention programs, medication adherence and much more.

But retail pharmacy is only one component in a wide-ranging, complex ecosystem with specialized players that provide care for millions of Americans. So what does this system look like? We set out to answer that question.

After months of legwork, we have assembled the Real Retail Health ecosystem report, which lists all of the pieces that make up retail health care today, including regional pharmacies, insurance companies, virtual care companies, clinical services, wholesalers, insurance companies, home health care outlets and more. The system is surprisingly vast!

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