While getting the oil changed on my car the other day, I thought about how much the experience has changed since I was a kid. In the seventies, my Dad would always take our cars to “his” mechanic for maintenance. “His” mechanic was a distant relative that owned a service station where the attendants would pump the gas for you, check your oil and tire pressure and clean the windows. The coolest thing was that they wore bright orange jump suits and some pretty nifty hats to identify them as the service station’s employees.
Sometime in the mid-to-late-seventies, a JiffyLube opened in our town. My dad, being loyal to his mechanic, took his car in to be serviced shortly after it opened. During the service, the conversation between my Dad and his mechanic turned to the new competitor in town. I recall the owner saying that JiffyLube wouldn’t last because they had no customer loyalty and no way to know what the car’s service history. I think he even went so far as to say that he didn’t think they would last for more than a year or two in our town.
And yet, the next oil change for our family car was performed at this JiffyLube. When I asked why we weren’t going to the regular mechanic, my Dad told me that for convenience, he was going to have the oil changed here and some other work done on the car. The work done on the car was faster, less expensive and we didn’t have to wait for parts – they were already stocked at the location.
For my Dad, the convenience became a mainstay and he would not return to his mechanic again. I guessed that the customer loyalty I heard about was now a thing of the past.
And, as it turned out, his former mechanic went out of business within two years and the station was torn down and replaced by a fast food restaurant. The kind of irony that probably wasn’t lost on the owner of the service station.
What does convenient service mean for healthcare?
JiffyLube and other quick-change oil companies offer a convenient, less expensive, faster service than traditional family-owned service station were able to.
The same reasons why the service station owner should have worried about JiffyLube are those that providers and healthcare organizations should worry about the explosion of CVS Health and Walmart Clinics. It should raise red flags to you as healthcare leaders if you hear from colleagues that “they won’t last,” “there’s no loyalty” and “they don’t know the patient history.”
Which begs the question, does patient loyalty matter in healthcare?
From my perspective it is still very much matters. Having someone know you that can help direct you through continuity of care issues is vitally important. But it isn’t enough. Our market is telling us that patients are attracted to the open schedule and convenient locations quick clinics offer. Is there a way traditional healthcare providers can learn from this and provide extended schedules, open appointments and other conveniences that meet patients’ needs? The bottom line is, the market wouldn’t be saturated with minute clinics if they weren’t meeting a need for people that want to be able to walk in, see a provider and get better.