NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

HEALTH CARE -- THE "BIG BOX" WAY

October 12, 2005

Retail chains are venturing into new territory by offering on-site health clinics at their stores, providing convenience and low-priced health care for hurried customers. CVS and Target have partnered with MinuteClinics to open several clinics around the country, while Wal-Mart is negotiating with InterFit Health to open clinics in several states. Drugstores Rite-Aid and Walgreen's are working with Take Care clinics.

With the growth of mail-order pharmacies, drugstores and large retailers are looking for ways to expand their services and increase revenue. In-store clinics could do just that while providing benefits to shoppers, say observers:

  • In-store health clinics provide about 30 basic services, such as treatment for athlete's foot, tetanus shots and flu shots; furthermore, nurse practitioners that staff the clinics are authorized to write prescriptions.
  • While a typical visit to a doctor's office costs $110, in-store clinic visits cost anywhere from $25 to $60.
  • In-store clinics have extended hours and no appointment is required; in fact, Target's MinuteClinics allow shoppers to sign in, carry a beeper and shop the store until the nurse contacts them.

In-store health clinics will provide convenience for customers on the go who don't have time to sit in a doctor's office, say observers. Meanwhile, doctors are concerned about losing business to this cheaper alternative for consumers. Critics also worry that in-store clinics not staffed by doctors will misdiagnose potentially serious illnesses.

Source: Jane Spencer, "Getting Your Health Care at Wal-Mart," Wall Street Journal, October 5, 2005.

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