business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Boston Globe reports on how “Wal-Mart is experimenting with ways to provide outpatient medical services to its millions of customers by opening walk-in clinics in about a dozen stores,” while “Target has opened 12 clinics in Minnesota and Maryland stores, staffing them with nurse practitioners who treat sore throats, earaches, and other minor ailments. The CVS pharmacy chain is aggressively rolling out similar clinics, with about 35 so far in cities like Atlanta, Nashville, and Seattle. Rite Aid, a national drugstore chain, and Duane Reade, a New York pharmacy chain, are setting up pilot programs for similar clinics. And MinuteClinic, a Minneapolis healthcare firm that leases space from Target and CVS, plans to expand to another 100 to 200 retail stores next year.”

But more illustrative than the numbers is the anecdote about Janine Charles, a Florida woman with a sore neck and who was sent by her insurance company to a local Wal-Mart. “Her visit turned out to be convenient, fast, and reasonably priced -- $90 for an exam and an injection of muscle-relaxant medicine,” the Globe writes. “The same treatment costs up to $200 at a doctor's office and more than $500 at a hospital emergency room. Like those places, the Wal-Mart clinic accepts most major health insurance plans.

“But beside ease of access and price, there was another advantage for Charles: while she was waiting for her prescription to be filled at the store's pharmacy, she was able to do her grocery shopping.”
KC's View:
The challenge to supermarkets, as we’ve pointed out before, is to figure out how to close the circle in such a way that connects food offerings with these new health care options.

Doctors and the medical establishment may resist this shift to retail health care…but their arguments likely will be fruitless. This option, both in terms of cost and accessibility, will seem too attractive.