Several weeks back, NPR ran a story dubbed “Wal-Mart Plans Ambitious Expansion Into Medical Care,” outlining how Wal-Mart planned to open medical clinics throughout its chain of stores.
The story was later updated to suggest Wal-Mart did not indeed have such machinations. However, the idea has some interesting points worth consideringâ€¦ especially if you replace “Wal-Mart” with “Target” (or another big box brand).
Target has an amazing geographic footprint in the United States and has already won some awards on improving the pharmacy experience. I would think consumers would like to have the doctor office visit at same place as the pharmacy as there would be less overall waiting and more convenience for drug pickupâ€¦ especially for moms with kids.
Picture, too, one of these big box retailers having ‘instant pickup’ integrated into a store doctor’s visit. I quite dislike having to leave the doctor’s office only to then have go to a Walgreens at a different location to then ask if they have filled my prescription. Imagine instead: walking out of doc appointment with the doctor’s receptionist handing you a bag with your prescription already filled plus other medical/health-related items recommended by the doc (e.g. gauze, or cough syrup, or compression hose, or whatever)â€¦ all charged on the same bill/account as the visit itself (less checks to write, less bills/paper to manage). Top it off with a store system-wide health record that follows you to any new town/location, so that even when you’re on holiday/vacation, your records are there and available. No calling up another city to a doctor/nurse that’s not in the office or can’t assist/answer right now.
Now, certainly some doctor offices have pharmacies within (such as PAMF here in Palo Alto), although I’ve yet to see these in-house pharmacies optimize for speed. Additionally, these in-house solutions don’t solve the distributed location problem (for an increasingly transient and mobile population).
Of course, there would absolutely be room for some anti-consumer practices to happen (think: “personalized” higher prices for non-health-related products based on your record, advertising/privacy concerns, etc.), too, but personally I trust Target/Walgreens more to act on my behalf as a health consumer (as they want my overall business) than I do Aetna/Kaiser/BCBS.