Saturday, February 23, 2013

Changes in Store for In-Store Health Clinics?

Back in 2006, in-store health clinics were in their infancy. The idea of dropping by the local supermarket or discount store to have a nurse, physician's assistant, or doctor look at a sore throat was just getting established, but drug stores and chain retailers had ambitious plans. 

At the time, CVS had 70 MinuteClinics in stores coast to coast, and it bought MinuteClinic to drive rapid expansion. Walmart planned to open 2,000 clinics within a few years. Target had plans for multiple clinics, and other regional and national retailers were jumping on the clinic bandwagon. Their goal: broadening services by offering convenient access to health-care providers for common ailments like scrapes or sore throats, with the ability to fill prescriptions on-site if needed, all at a reasonable cost.

Of course, shoppers might just pick up a few other items before or after being seen at the in-store clinic, adding to the overall transaction size and profit potential. Especially in areas with limited access to everyday health care or few doctors, in-store clinics can fill the void.

Fast-forward to 2013: Walmart has fewer than 150 health clinics--far fewer than it projected. Overall, retailers are still refining their marketing of in-store health clinics. Walgreens, for example, is expanding its clinics on a market-by-market basis. A few years ago, CVS began shutting some Minute Clinics when seasonal demand was low, referring customers to nearby locations instead. As demand increases, it reopens individual locations to meet local needs.

Yet some surveys show that consumers remain interested in visiting clinics in stores and offices, seeking both convenience and affordability. In fact, new health-care legislation is likely to accelerate demand for in-store health clinics in the coming years

Meanwhile, retailers have been using the flu shot as a competitive tool, emphasizing flexible hours and availability. In the 2012-3 season, Rite-Aid offered a booklet of discount coupons worth $100 and CVS offered a 20% deal on all store purchases made during the flu shot visit. Walgreens has steadily promoted flu shots and is one of the country's largest providers of flu vaccinations, despite the recent vaccine shortage due to high demand. Walmart, Costco, Stop & Shop, and other retailers have featured flu shot signage and events to heighten awareness and draw customers in.

What other changes are in store for in-store health clinics?

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