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Wal-Mart Launches Co-Branded Walk-In Medical Clinics in Three Cities

Posted Nov 13 2009 10:02pm
Up to this point, walk-in clinics in retail drug stores and big-box stores have not lived up to their expectations. In my opinion, they have enjoyed several key advantages over competing medical offices such as convenience, posted price lists, and relatively low costs for routine procedures. For many of them, however, major liabilities were the absence of a referral network for patients with more complex problems and a lack of integration of their health records with regional physician office and hospital records. This latter problem, of course, is not unique to them. It seems that Wal-Mart has reworked its business model to address at least one of these deficiencies with a co-branding strategy as described in a recent article (see: " The Clinic At Wal-Mart" To Open In Atlanta, Little Rock And Dallas Supercenters ). Below is an excerpt from it:

Wal-Mart today announced that its first co-branded in-store clinics will open in Atlanta, Little Rock and Dallas under “The Clinic at Wal-Mart” brand. These clinics – the first of which is expected to open in April – will be connected to their communities via local hospitals that Wal-Mart’s customers already know and respect. Today’s announcement is the first step towards opening 400 co-branded convenient clinics ....Wal-Mart has signed a letter of intent to work with RediClinic...and local hospital systems to open co-branded walk-in clinics in 200 Wal-Mart Supercenters. Wal-Mart has also signed a letter of intent to partner directly with St. Vincent Health System, a part of the Catholic Healthcare Initiatives system, to open four co-branded clinics in Little Rock.... “The Clinic at Wal-Mart, owned and operated by St. Vincent Health System” is expected to open in Little Rock by the end of April, as will “The Clinic at Wal-Mart owned and operated by RediClinic” in association with a local hospital system in Atlanta [according to a Wal-Mart executive]. By the summer of 2008, Wal-Mart also expects to open co-branded clinics with RediClinic and a local hospital system in Dallas....The Clinics at Wal-Mart will offer a limited set of affordably-priced Get Well and Stay Well services. Each clinic will operate seven days a week and feature a consistent, innovative design. They will also feature prominent signage in keeping with Wal-Mart’s price transparency promise -- a key aspect that requires operators to post pricing for the services and treatments offered so patients know what their costs will be up front.

The notion of co-branding walk-in clinics with local hospital partners makes perfect sense to me. A previous post discussed how Cleveland Clinic was partnering with Minute Clinic for walk-in facilities in the Cleveland area (see; Cleveland Clinic Partners with Minute Clinic in Retail Health Services ). The story above presents two different business models for the Wal-Mart initiative -- direct partnership with the hospital and a three-way relationship including RediClinic and the hospital. I suspect that the latter will appeal to hospitals with little experience or interest in the walk-in model for minor problems but are anxious for the referral of more complex cases. It should not be surprising that one of the first partnerships announced by Wal-Mart was with a hospital system in Little Rock. Regardless of the business model, the idea of posting prices for office visits may have infectious qualities. If it's appropriate for co-branded walk-in clinic facilities, it be also be relevant for those directly owned and managed by a hospital system.

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