Moving healthcare to the masses

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 considering, 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 pickup, especially for parents 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), 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.


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