Dr. Wal-Mart Will See You Now: The Growth of Retail Health Clinics in the US

As the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart has certainly made a name for itself in the consumer market. Now that 400 proposed medical clinics are being added to the chain's nationwide stores, Wal-Mart can add "healthcare" to its rapidly increasing portfolio.

The Associated Press (AP) on Tuesday announced the expansion of retail health clinics in more than 400 Wal-Mart stores nationwide.

Wal-Mart's senior vice president, John Agwunobi, MD, says "America's healthcare challenges are larger than any one corporation, but we're (Wal-Mart) committed to doing our part to expand access to quality, affordable healthcare -- our commitment to partnering with local hospital systems is evidence."

Atlanta, Little Rock and Dallas have already jumped on the bandwagon, adding the Wal-Mart clinic to their neighborhood stores in a co-brand initiative with the retail giant. Signing letters of intent to work with local hospital systems, Wal-Mart is solidifying their plan to add the 400 healthcare clinics across the country, by 2010. The number is expected to increase as chains like CVS Caremark, Target and Walgreens partner with miniclinic providers like RediClinic and MinuteClinic to expand operations. As stated by the AP, "The trade group estimates there will be more than 1,500 by the year's end, up from about 800 in November."

Among the more 77 stores currently boasting the retail clinics are nine locations in Wisconsin and Florida operated by local hospitals.

Echoing the excitement of Dr. Agwunobi about the partnership is St Vincent Health System's president and CEO, Peter Banko. "Our vision of the future is to transform healthcare for our community," he says. "We work every day towards that vision and the clinics that we will operate in Wal-Mart Supercenters will be a great solution for patients who come to us for health and healing."

Just how popular are these accessible healthcare centers? "About 7% of Americans have tried a clinic at least once, according to an estimate by the Convenient Care Association, an industry trade group formed in 2006," according to the article, as reported on MSN.com. Additionally, the clinics operated by both RediClinic and St. Vincent plan to accept health insurance plans including Aetna, Humana, Blue Cross Blue Shield and others to make the affordability of healthcare that much more feasible. This means more competition for online health clinics, such as MayoClinic and WebMD, who provide online symptom checkers for patients before the doctor visit is required. Now that you can see the doc and do your weekly grocery shopping in one trip, Wal-Mart seems to have the right idea.

Is there anything Wal-Mart can't do?

View the Physician's Guide to $4 Prescriptions.