High-Street Health: Big-Box Retailers Tap the Healthcare Market
A slew of general retailers in the US, including WalMart and Target, have announced expansions of their in-store health services in anticipation of a spike in consumer demand for convenient, inexpensive healthcare in 2014.
As millions of US citizens gain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act – launching in 2014 – it is expected to become more difficult to get an appointment with primary care doctors (general practitioners visited prior to referral to a specialist), who are already strained by high demand. In-store clinics offering basic services are emerging to address this dilemma.
WalMart’s SoloHealth kiosks (pictured) – which can test a patient’s blood pressure, eyesight and provide nutritional advice – will arrive at 2,500 WalMart and Sam’s Club stores (also owned by WalMart) in spring 2013. By 2014, Target plans to have at least 68 in-store clinics, which will offer immunisations, physicals and treatment for minor injuries.
"With nearly 70% of the US population either without a primary care physician or not utilising one, and more than 30 million people gaining insurance coverage in 2014 under healthcare reform, we are well-positioned to fill the void in care," said Walgreens president and chief executive Greg Wasson at a shareholders meeting in January 2013.
US pharmacist Walgreens has been expanding its remit in this area for some time. Since 2006, it has opened more than 700 nurse-practitioner-staffed clinics and made efforts to expand the role of pharmacists by seating them at desks where they can consult with customers.
US convenience store CVS has also announced plans to add 1,500 more in-store MinuteClinics to locations over the next four years. American grocery chain Safeway is reported to be developing clinics in more than 100 California stores, while fellow grocer Kroger has been expanding its in-store Little Clinics since 2007.
While it remains to be seen how these stores will look, early indications elsewhere in the health-related retail sector suggest there will be a growing trend for boutique styling, and plenty of overlap between concepts that reassure via the appliance of science and those bearing a distinctly community-oriented flavour. See Spaces for Health: Selling to the Patient Consumer for more on this topic.