Aug 8, 2019

The Message Healthcare is Missing from Medical Dispensaries


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As some of society’s smartest minds grapple with the evolving healthcare landscape, the opportunity exists to learn more about the continued experience providers offer to meet modern consumers where they are.  In Dr. David Casarett’s case, perhaps this opportunity starts with a visit to a local medical marijuana dispensary. 

In his TEDMED Talk, “A Doctor’s Case for Medical Marijuana”, Dr. Casarett points out  distinctive takeaways from a physician’s perspective of the medical dispensary experience. Coming from the palliative care world, he reaches people at a powerful point of the human experience when mortality moves to top of mind, and holistic health moves from being a buzzword to becoming an integral part of care management. 

What compelled Dr. Casarett to dig into the cannabis-as-medicine world wasn’t its superior effect on treatment, or really anything regarding the functionality of the compound and the products that derive from it. Rather, his focus was on the experiential nature in which medical cannabis is delivered, and how personalized control and connection had a more profound impact on patients than any symptom improvement. 


With the promise of ‘more control’ permeating healthcare brand benefits, it’s no secret that the tension of a lack thereof exists across disease states. With the essence of control slipping through patients’ fingertips in their daily lives, they still have relatively easy access to a dispensary—no appointments, prescriptions, scheduling calls or tests necessary. The ability to dose how often, how much, what kind, what time—lies in the patient’s hands to individualize treatment solely on their terms. 

Cannabis health tea and assortments


In addition to control, connection lies at the core of what is driving around 3 million state-legal patients in the U.S. to this disruptive alternative. Without the organizational restraints of traditional health systems, dispensaries are able to serve patients in a more personalized way that focuses on understanding and engagement, without hinging on time or transactions. 

In contrast to the medical field, the point of contact at a dispensary counter is typically someone who doesn’t hold medical training and doctorate degrees, rather interpersonal skills and niche product expertise that allow the patient to feel at ease, trusting and open to recommendations. The power of a professional offering genuine interest in meeting a patient’s needs cannot be underestimated, especially amidst a healthcare climate in which facetime continues to dwindle, and many patients leave provider interactions feeling less than fulfilled. 


“Patients shouldn’t have to wait until they’re chronically, seriously ill, often near the end of life, before somebody asks them, ‘What are you hoping for? ‘What are you afraid of?’ That should be baked into the way that healthcare is delivered.” – Dr. Casarett

The foundation of the dispensary experience lies in relationship-building, focusing on getting to the root of the problem patients are hiring the product to solve, and how the product could affect their health holistically. By taking into account their lifestyle, physical restraints, and mental and emotional effects to piece together a larger puzzle, the professional recommendation ushers a more personalized path to solve the problem at hand.  


“We absolutely do need more research, but to say that we need research and not that we need to make any changes now is to miss the point entirely. People aren’t seeking out medical marijuana because they think it’s a wonder drug, or because they think it’s entirely risk-free. They seek it out because the context in which it’s delivered, administered, and used, gives them the sort of control hey need over their lives. And that’s a wake up call we really need to pay attention to.” – Dr. Casarett

While change is the only constant in the cannabis space amidst regulations and research, an opportunity exists to implement action now. By taking stock of the existing foothold cannabis has earned, providers can advance the way they deliver care to meet patients where they are in their health and wellness management. And it doesn’t stop outside of the dispensary, patients are continuing to seek alternative therapies that better meet their needs than mainstream healthcare. The message traditional healthcare is missing from these alternatives lies in giving patients a greater sense of both control and connection to create an experience of affinity that grows to loyalty. 

Doctors stethoscope

Whether inside or outside of the cannabis and healthcare categories, will your brand choose to grow with the plant’s inadvertent effect on consumer standards, or run the risk of losing market share to competitors who will?


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