After a relatively long gestation period, the business model for retail walk-in health clinics is becoming clear. The winner in the competition, in my opinion, will be the large drugstore chains like CVS and Walgreens. In previous notes, I had also discussed the "big-box store" clinics that had been launched by Walmart as part of the mix (see: Wal-Mart Launches Co-Branded Walk-In Medical Clinics in Three Cities). I also suggested that walk-in clinics developed by health systems might begin to offer lab testing beyond CLIA-waived tests (see: Health Systems Launch Walk-In Clinics). A recent article indicated that Walgreens is extending its "preventive health services" in 200 of its California stores by offering cholesterol and blood glucose testing (see: Daily cholesterol, blood glucose, body comp tests launch at Walgreens). Below is an excerpt from it:
Further expanding the scope of convenient, preventive health care services provided by its pharmacists, Walgreens is now offering daily testing for cholesterol, blood glucose and body composition at nearly 200 stores in California. Each test also includes a free blood pressure reading and personal consultation with a Walgreens pharmacist.....[A Walgreens spokesperson said] ”Tests are available to those ages 18 and over at most stores during pharmacy hours daily with no appointment necessary. Walgreens offers health testing daily at more than 4,100 stores in 41 states
Walgreens has been heavily promoting its flu shots with in-store advertising and a web page (see: Stay Well with a Flu Shot). The cost is $31.99. Here's the price list for all the other vaccinations that are offered (see: Vaccines). HPV and shingles are much more expensive than flu but I am sure that a large part of this is the cost of the vaccine. Walgreens has gone a long way toward establishing itself and its stores as outposts for prevention and wellness services. Simultaneously, it has enhanced a much broader role for its pharmacists in the minds of healthcare consumers.
In its web marketing for the shingles vaccination, the company draws a distinction between scheduling an appointment at one of its pharmacies versus its healthcare clinics (see: What is shingles?; Walgreens Introduces “Healthcare Clinic,” Rebranding its In-Store Take Care Clinics). Both offer vaccinations but the following distinction is drawn on the web site: "Your personal appointment at Healthcare Clinic will be with a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant. Your personal appointment at Walgreens Pharmacy will be with a registered Walgreens Pharmacist."
The next question to consider is what's the next step for Walgreens and its competitor CVS in terms of diagnosis and preventive medicine. A logical progression would be blood collection and an expansion of its lab test menu in states where a physician test order is not required. I don't think that the company will move quickly on this. Whatever the next step, however, I think that the nurse-staffed Walgreens' healthcare clinics will continue to expand and carve out an important role in basic healthcare delivery.