The U.S. is well known for its diverse and ever-changing population, and melding cultural forces continue to shape our country in numerous ways. It now appears that growth in the Hispanic population may significantly shape the way the U.S. healthcare system operates. A key beneficiary could be pharmacies.
The Pew Research Center reports that the U.S. Hispanic population has grown 50% since 2000, significantly faster than the 12% overall population growth rate. As of 2012, the U.S. was home to 53 million Hispanics, most notably in areas such as California. According to a spring 2014 study from PricewaterhouseCooper's Health Research Institute (PwC HRI), Hispanics: A growing force in the New Health Economy, Hispanic healthcare consumers are noticeably more likely than non-Hispanic consumers to seek care at a medical clinic within a pharmacy.
This behavior may be carried over from the countries of origin for Hispanic patients, according to Elena Rios, M.D., president and CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association.
"In many Latin American countries, pharmacies are on every street corner, just like liquor stores or McDonald's," said Elena Rios, M.D., president and CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association. "They are open all day long and there is no appointment necessary. Pharmacists are considered trusted sources of information at the patient's convenience. It's a different way of getting taken care of...and it's good enough for the people who need it." –from Hispanics: A growing force in the New Health Economy; PricewaterhouseCooper's Health Research Institute
Hispanics also tend to be more cost conscious than other healthcare consumers. The PwC study found cost was a bigger factor than quality among Hispanics. Conversely, non-Hispanics indicate that when making healthcare decisions, quality is more important than cost.
Pharmacies may be best positioned to deliver low-cost care. As noted in the study Retail Clinics, Primary Care Physicians, And Emergency Departments: A Comparison of Patients' Visits published in the September/October 2008 edition of Health Affairs, the total cost of care in a MinuteClinic is almost one-third less than the next lowest cost setting, an urgent care facility.
Other cultural factors also favor the pharmacist. In 2012, Global Advertising Strategies published The Hispanic Patient – Pharmacist Relationship: Untapped Potential, a study that looked at potential cultural influences on Hispanics' healthcare behaviors and found that trust and interpersonal relationships are highly valued. Similarly, the PwC HRI study notes that Hispanics may be less willing to share personal information than non-Hispanics. Since pharmacists typically operate in close proximity to where their customers live or work, they may be uniquely positioned to build the trust and close personal ties that may allow them to serve a central role in care delivery to Hispanics.
The confluence of availability, cost and trust present an opportunity for pharmacies to develop a loyal customer base receptive to a broader suite of healthcare services. Pharmacies that can technologically align with providers to deliver services that increase medication adherence levels and improve the health of the growing Hispanic population may become an important driving force in the new healthcare landscape.
Note: Typical statistical practices were not applied to the findings in this post. Observations provided in this post should be interpreted as commentary on published industry reports and featured news topics. To download the reports referenced in this post: