Clinics Deal with ‘Yuck’ Factor

Discussion
Aug 20, 2008

By George Anderson

In-store medical clinics seem like a great business idea. Offer consumers a convenient and inexpensive solution to basic health needs in an easy-to-get-to location.

So what’s the problem? Why are some clinics closing and others slowing the pace of new location openings?

Raleigh Werner, a 19-year old Colby College student described the problem, as he saw it, to MSNBC in a single word, “Yuck.”

Just as many, at one point in time, couldn’t understand buying groceries in the same warehouse where you purchase car tires, some today are questioning why they would shop at stores they know are being frequented by sick people.

“I just don’t know about mixing those two environments in the same place,” Mr. Werner said.

Tom Charland, a former executive with MinuteClinic and the current CEO of the consultancy Merchant Medicine, believes that consumers will need to adjust to the concept of a health clinic inside retail stores.

“I think this is a long-term process. The idea that within a year they’ll be profitable and people will be flocking to them is a fallacy,” he said.

Chip Phillips, president of MinuteClinic, believes that the problem is more about consumers being aware of clinic locations and services than any “yuck” factor.

“There remains an industry problem associated with broad awareness of the availability,” he told MSNBC. “But once you have a trial use by the consumer of this service, there is very high customer satisfaction.”

Walmart is one of the chains that remains committed to in-store clinics. A spokesperson for the chain, Christi Gallagher, said, “We see clinics as an emerging industry, and we expect to see continued changes and evolution in that space, but I can tell you that we are excited about the strong interest that we are getting from hospitals and health care systems.”

Discussion Questions: How big is the ‘yuck’ factor in keeping people from trying in-store clinics? What other significant factors are getting in the way of clinic success in retail stores? How will the economic downturn influence the acceptance of clinics?

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13 Comments on "Clinics Deal with ‘Yuck’ Factor"


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Dave Wendland
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

If there is indeed a ‘YUCK’ factor, it’s self-induced. I agree with the previous comments that the need is there for easily accessible healthcare (and less expensive to the overall system than emergency rooms). I also agree that the current model is not sustainable.

Rather than creating an entirely new level of care within the healthcare stream somewhere slightly below “physician” why couldn’t we create a dialed-up pharmacist who could perform a similar triage function as the nurse practitioner model? Not only does the pharmacist have well-honed pharmacological skills but an integrated system that shows potential interactions and counter-indications.

Of course the simple answer is that pharmacists don’t have time to perform this function. Fact of the matter is that at one time they did serve this role and they were called ‘DOC.’ The system burdened the profession with insurance forms and PBMs. The reality is that pharmacists remain among the most trusted professionals and they are already accessible–and it certainly would not appear that a YUCK factor would become pervasive.

Max Goldberg
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

It’s not only the “Yuck” factor, it’s consumers questioning the professional competency of the staff. Clinics have to prove that they are “OK” places to engage a medical professional and not just a place to go for a flu shot. This is going to take time. If retailers want to push clinics, they need to educate consumers about the quality of their staffs, not just the convenience of their hours of service.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
13 years 9 months ago

In-store clinics aren’t hospitals, the medical person isn’t considered a top-rated medical professional, and frequent nearby noises and a “yucky” feeling aren’t conducive to peace of mind when you don’t feel good or have a medical problem. The “need” is there but the “providing agent” needs more fine tuning before expansion is relevant.

Anne Howe
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

There is a clinic at my local CVS. It is a very busy, newer store open 24 hours. I have not seen one person in the clinic, ever, and I am in the store about once every 10 days for the past two years since it opened. If there is a nurse in the clinic reading a magazine, perhaps some training is in order to get her/him out in the aisles circulating with the shoppers. If he/she could build trust, gain the confidence of the shoppers, and appear to be integrated with the pharmacy staff (around 6+ people per shift) who are actually helpfully engaged with shoppers, I’m guessing that might help build visits. At the very least they can build input to understand their barriers to success!

David Biernbaum
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

The “yuck” factor for retail store clinics will evaporate in time as long as the retail clinics do not appear or become “yucky.” It’s important in today’s health care environment that consumers, uh, I mean patients–have lots of options for every day health care needs beyond the traditional means of getting an appointment with the family doctor or else crowding the E.R. at the local hospital for something as simple as a sore throat.

Retail store clinics need to have ample separation from the tires, cleaning supplies, and snack bar, and must be kept clean, efficacious, and employ caring people. But I must admit that I will have a difficult time making the transition when they start to do open heart surgery in the supermarket next to the gourmet deli.

Dan Raftery
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

The yuck factor is just as real as the need for new and affordable healthcare distribution points. Anyone in the business who passes it off as simply a matter of acculturation must be operating on another planet. The problem they skirt is contamination. Selling tires alongside food won’t contaminate the food. Inviting flu victims into the same space as otherwise healthy folks is another story. The work of the conceptual designers is far from over here.

Art Williams
Guest
Art Williams
13 years 9 months ago

In my opinion, a larger problem is worrying about the professional credentials of the staff. If you are concerned enough to seek medical help, you want the person giving it to be very knowledgeable and professional. It’s like going to the school nurse instead of the doctor. There is probably a place for that level of care but it may be hard for people to accept it or determine when it is appropriate.

David Livingston
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

I don’t think there is a “yuck” factor. Seems to me the business model is flawed. The services offered at these clinics are just too minimal and not cost effective. I’ve seen several clinics and usually find a nurse sitting around, bored, reading a magazine. These clinics are not cheap. I inquired about getting a tetanus shot and was quoted $65. My doctor’s office was the same price and the county health department was significantly lower.

Poor people are expected to pay cash. Therefore the poor simply go to the emergency room and never pay the bill. The clinic at my Walmart charges $59 to basically take your temperature and refer you to a doctor. There really isn’t much these clinics can do for you if you are sick. Lately, the clinics have been somewhat busy doing physicals for school kids.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
13 years 9 months ago

Cheap Clinics would be great if they get the freeloaders out of the emergency rooms. I applaud Walmart for their efforts. Many Walmart shoppers will benefit from the availability of a reasonable clinic. It amazes me how “for profit” clinics can be cheaper than the “not for profit,” hospital managed clinics.

OK, now that we have this problem solved can we address Health Insurance? This is the real problem in our Health Care System. The insurance companies only want to insure people who don’t need insurance and the people who do need insurance don’t pay their bills which forces all of us to subsidize them via taxes. There has to be a better way, but I am amazed that no one has stepped forward with any type of plan. This is just like the energy problem–everyone knows it’s there but the “special interest groups” block every effort to really address the issue.

Bryan Gott
Guest
Bryan Gott
13 years 9 months ago

I think the more human factor is one of privacy. The average person would rather deal with personal health issues one on one with a medical professional versus seeing a few hundred members of their community in the process.

Connect the two for convenience, but respect that each carry separate mindsets and needs.

Liz Crawford
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

If the clinics are clean, well-run and cost-effective there will be an audience. The audience won’t be college students. Or perhaps even college graduates. Affordable health care is a huge concern in this country, which will increasingly delineate the haves from the have-nots. Retail Clinics will cater to those who are under-insured, uninsured or the time-pressed.

Consumers who are motivated by convenience concerns may be wealthier, but probably won’t seek primary medical care at these facilities.

This brings us to zip code sorting. The services offered at the clinics should be very specifically tailored to the trade area needs in order to be successful.

Tim O'Connor
Guest
Tim O'Connor
13 years 9 months ago

If you believe in the Yuck Factor, you would assume that those consumers are not shopping in drug chains like CVS to begin with. Unless you think only healthy people need prescriptions and medicines.

That’s not to say they don’t need to address where sick people are sitting waiting etc, that they are not coughing on or crowding otherwise “healthy” non clinic shoppers.

Awareness, access and habit change will evolve and retail health clinics will be a substantial traffic driver for any retailer engaging in it. Once they are ubiquitous of course then it’s not a differentiator, so to first movers and believers goes the advantage.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

The yuck factor applies to both shoppers and patients. Most people go to supermarkets to shop. We talk here frequently about the convenience demanded and how all people with their oh so busy lifestyles want to do is get in and out fast. Which implies, to me, that they don’t want to hang around or use the same bit of limited time for seeing a medical professional. If people are sick, they want a doctor and some TLC. If they want milk and eggs, they want to grab it and go. The two do not seem compatible to me even before you begin thinking about whether the milk and eggs folk are going to be put off by the sneezy, wheezy folk dashing in to see a nurse or someone who may give them a prescription for antibiotics that may or may not help them get better ten minutes faster. Or whether the sick people will feel as if they’re getting enough sympathy when they’re surrounded by the hurried, harried shoppers.

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