Patients are the new healthcare payors, and as such, taking on the role of health consumers.

In fact, health and wellness consumers have existed since a person purchased the first toothpaste, aspirin, heating pad, and moisturizing cream at retail.

Or consulted with their neighborhood herbalista, homeopathic practitioner, therapeutic masseuse, or skin aesthetician.

Today, the health and wellness consumer can DIY all of these things at home through a huge array of products available in pharmacies, supermarkets, Big Box stores, cosmetic superstores, convenience and dollar stores, and other retail channels – increasingly, online (THINK, of course, of Amazon — more on the A-word in the Hot Points below).

Self-care for health goes back to the beginning of time, really, to parents’ and grandparents’ and tribal leaders and community health workers sharing kitchen-table wisdom on healing tactics, herbs and natural-occurring products, time-tested, evidence-based lifestyle choices and traditional and ethnic rituals.

What’s so old is new again, in the forms of turmeric gummies and charcoal-infused masks, corn starch-based toothbrushes and bath bombs infused with aromatherapeutic natural ingredients. I find all of these, and more, at the Health-Beauty-Wellness Conference convened by GMDC in Orlando this week through the weekend.

Health, beauty and wellness suppliers and retailers (HBW for short) have assembled to connect, collaborate, create, and drive commerce by scratching consumers’ collective itch for being healthy.

This is my first of several posts discussing the self-care retail health phenomenon among consumers, and the business opportunity, as I’m spending the weekend with suppliers and retailers attending this meeting.

Some context: GMDC plays a Switzerland-like role, an association for all HBW comers, bringing together competing organizations from both the supply/product and retail communities. On the supply side are the brands you find in front of the pharmacy and in health-and-beauty aisles, from companies like Burt’s Bees and Bayer Consumer Health, Colgate-Palmolive and Unilever, as well as smaller firms such as Tweezerman, KT Health and Boiron (which has made homeopathic medicines understandable and accessible to Everyday People). This is also a global community, with products emerging from, for example, Korea with its innovations in skin care.

GMDC is a kind of, VP Insights & Communications Mark Melchese described to me, providing a meeting ground where folks who make and market HBW products and the organizations who sell these products to consumers can find each other.

Over 200 companies are participating in the meeting this weekend, which brings together attendees in a variety of formats and workflows: these include “slow” face-to-face strategic meetings in quiet rooms between one vendor and one retailer; a fast-paced Wall Street-like trading room environment where retailers meet up for quick introductions to find new and innovative products for next season’s consumer health shelves; a Shark Tank-style session where entrepreneurs with new-new things meet prospective retail store buyers who kick tires on new product ideas; and, education sessions covering market research into HBW trends and prospects.

In my role as health economist-advisor-trend weaver and data junkie, I’ve been collegial with GMDC for a few years. They were generous to invite me to hang out this weekend and observe the various streams of activity, as well as meet with attendees on both the “sell” and “buy” side of the HBW industry. Throughout, I’m wearing my health consumer-focused lens.






The U.S. health consumer, bearing more first-dollar costs through high-deductible health plans, or being un- or under-insured, uses self-care as a financial health hedge.

To that point, the first chart presents data from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) Value of OTC Medicines study which calculated that for every dollar spent on over-the-counter medicines, consumers save on average $6 to $7 to the U.S. healthcare system in terms of clinician visits averted and prescription drug cost savings. As the patient is increasingly the payor, some of those savings accrue to her, especially if she uses a health savings account where OTC meds are claimable with a tax advantage. (Note the new alliance between Walmart and Anthem to channel OTC meds to Medicare Advantage members).

The consumer also has complex self-care needs, dealing with aging, chronic conditions, nutrition demands, and resilience. The second chart illustrates these complexities for one consumer persona, who values sustainability, fair trade, organic, protein, and other choices that are her unique DIY approach to personal health and wellness.

I’ll be diving more deeply into the weekend’s discussions between suppliers and retailers, along with analyzing new research from GMDC and AT Kearney on the HBW ecosystem and an insightful self-care roadmap that GMDC developed in concert with Nielsen and other industry partners.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  I snapped these photos today, beginning at 5:37 am when I got into my car and took this image, before sunrise, of the face of my Fitbit Versa smartwatch.

Once at the airport, I took a long walk from the Philadelphia Airport “A” Terminal to the “C” Terminal, passing by two sweet pet relief areas which made me happy, even at 6:30 am. (I registered a couple thousand steps on the Versa in the process of parking far from my gate).

On the plane, I stretched out my feet in their comfy shoes, and added my vitamin-infused packet into a cup of water and drank it. I do this a lot when I’m on airplanes.

I caught up with some magazine reading, noting a Prudential ad marketing financial wellness.

Inside the Orlando World Center Marriott, I encountered Marriott’s “Good Health Starts with Clean Hands” kiosk promoting hand hygiene, then registered for the HBW Conference.

I looked out through the hotel window at the glorious sunshine and palm trees (not having seen sun in Philadelphia for what feels like a week). I exhaled in a mindful moment.

I then toured a gathering of new HBW products that hinted at what I’m going to see at retail in 2019 and beyond: food-as-medicine through turmeric-based supplements, “free-from” products for my kids and for me, and products “with benefits” and experiences beyond the first-line value proposition.

What my photos represent are today’s personal health ecology for Jane S-K. Every one of us has a personal health ecology based on our own value system, what our parents taught us (or didn’t), what choices our social networks expose us to, and so on. This is self-care, healthcare. Health is made or diminished by these micro-choices, boosted by mindfulness. My own brand of cognitive therapy compels my eyes to see health/care, everywhere. I don’t just do this for my living. I live it. (Ask my husband and daughter).

Stay tuned to Health Populi for more insights into consumers, self-care and retail health in the coming days. Over the tenure of the eleven years of this blog, you’ll read a lot about retail health and consumer-facing healthcare.

Self-care is a growing part of the larger health ecosystem, and trust me: health plans, hospitals, pharma, and clinicians are all sorting this out and the implications for their industry segments as consumers/patients are already on their self-care journeys.

As for that “A”-word? This week, a Deutsche Bank analyst published a report noting a consumer survey that found 85% of Amazon Prime members would consider buying prescription drugs on the ecommerce site. That’s health engagement via ecommerce, and it’s based on trust and well-designed customer experience. That trust also translates to places like supermarkets and brick-and-mortar retailers. This is the omnichannel challenge that, if solved, can really get health/care to people where they live, work, play, walk through airports, and shop.