Will Whole Foods reinvent retail health clinics?
Whole Foods is exploring entering the health clinic space, but not surprisingly is taking two unique approaches in addressing the opportunity — getaway health retreats and medical clinics.
Both build off the success the chain has found with its Total Health Immersion Program, a weeklong retreat focused on nutrition and weight loss offered free to employees that includes medical assessments, nutritionist-led discussions and cooking classes. Since launching in fall 2009, more than 2,400 team members have participated in the program, according to Whole Food’s 2013 10K.
In a recent interview with Bloomberg News, co-CEO and co-founder John Mackey said he would like to offer the same program to customers as a "weekend getaway" and is negotiating to buy property in the chain’s hometown of Austin for the purpose. He added, "If it works here, there’s no reason we can’t do it in every major city in the U.S."
The second alternative is a medical clinic that works similar to Rosen Care, an employer health-care program run by Rosen Hotels & Resorts in Orlando. Across its seven properties, 38 health care practitioners serve nearly 5,300 Rosen employees with a focus on preventive care and nutrition. According to company founder Harris Rosen, the clinic has helped reduce per-employee health care costs to nearly half of the national average. Such clinics may be rolled out not just to Whole Foods’ employees, but customers as well, Mr. Mackey said.
Mr. Mackey has previously said that the country’s health care system is broken and entrepreneurs could help create better solutions.
A Whole Foods spokesman stressed to the Austin American-Statesman that both plans are preliminary but did indicate that the success of Total Health Immersion has inspired the chain to explore "a variety of experimental concepts that support healthy eating and wellness."
The chatter appeared to attract just as many watchers of the health care space as retail. A few speculated on how Whole Foods would offer such services without pharmacies. Wrote David Williams, a health-care consultant president of the Health Business Group, on his blog, "It sounds like the offering would be more like a diet, nutrition and lifestyle coaching center. That might have a certain appeal, but it’s pretty far removed from healthcare delivery."
- Whole Foods, Half Off – Bloomberg News
- Whole Foods health clinic? Co-CEO says maybe yes – Austin American-Statesman
- Whole Foods CEO considers adding health clinics to stores, report says – Austin Business Journal
- Health care business consultant and policy expert David E. Williams share his views – Health Business Blog
- Is Whole Foods the next retail chain to expand into healthcare? – Fierce Health Care
- Whole Foods’ founder has a grandiose vision for fixing American health care – Quartz
Does Whole Food’s exploration of getaway health retreats and medical clinics hold much potential for success? Do you see a larger role around nutrition counseling for supermarkets in general?