Hello Walgreens, Walmart, and CVS Health

Access to affordable and preventive health care is important. Retail clinics are surging and care is transitioning away from the hospital and doctors office to fill a void for many Americans who cannot afford to buy traditional health insurance. Some Americans can’t qualify for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and others may have fallen between the cracks due to a lack of the Medicaid expansion in their state.

Although, biased about the care they’d prefer to receive and where they’d like to receive it, most consumers are on board with the concept of going to big box stores, grocery stores, and pharmacies for quality healthcare at an affordable price.

In a 2013 Oliver Wyman national consumer survey of more than 2,000 consumers, 77 percent were willing to receive at least one medical or wellness service from a retail establishment. For minor incidents, 36 percent of consumers were interested in receiving care at a drugstore and 20 percent at a grocery store.

Walgreens, Walmart, and CVS Health (formerly CVS Caremark) have each invested in a strategy, which incorporates a business model consisting of different mergers formed with hospitals, physician groups, and nurse practitioners to offer quality affordable healthcare directly to consumers. Health information technology (HIT) has helped to facilitate a smooth transition from traditional visits to the doctor’s office by providing a secure platform for partners to get access to, for the purpose of sharing patient data through electronic health records (EHR).

A new research study from Walgreens found the percentage of visits to Healthcare Clinic locations for preventive services, screening and chronic visit utilization (combined) increased from 4 percent in 2007 to 17 percent in 2013. The study also found the annual percentage of return patient visits to Healthcare Clinic climbed from 15 percent in 2007, to more than 50 percent in both 2012 and 2013. Walgreens has over 400 clinics that offer vaccines, physical exams, and screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, health risk assessment, and influenza.

Walmart has positioned itself to lead the healthcare retail price wars by partnering with hospitals and nurse practitioners from QuadMed to offer primary care services in their walk-in clinics seven days a week, inside Walmart stores. Services include preventive and routine exams such as cholesterol screenings, allergy care, and vaccinations. Employees enrolled in the company’s health insurance plan can pay four dollars for services.

CVS has more than 900 “MinuteClinic” locations, and it plans to expand over the next few years. CVS recorded $126.7 billion in sales during the last fiscal year, and is making headlines now because of the decision to stop selling tobacco products by October 1st. This was a brave proactive decision for preventive care.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see the primary care service line for each of the retail clinic chains. Perhaps, the next frontier could include possible alliances and partnerships with board certified sleep specialists and accredited sleep centers. Perhaps each company could consider offering sleep apnea screenings with portable home sleep study devices to consumers in rural and urban demographics where physician shortages exist, and where there are higher disparities for medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer.

Has your sleep center team explored this prospect? I’d love to read your feedback, albeit positive or negative.