Today’s healthcare consumers, driven largely by the Millennial population, demand convenience, quality, transparency, and affordability. In a growing number of cases, consumers are eliminating trips to emergency rooms and even primary care physicians in favor of a quick visit to their neighborhood retail healthcare clinic. Retail clinics hit the scene in the early 2000s touting accessibility, quality, and affordable healthcare. Since then, they have been winning the favor of consumers in search of lower-cost and more convenient one-stop care options where appointments are easy to get closer to home.

Take Walmart as a prime example of a retail giant catering to a population need. The company opened its first standalone Care Clinic in Georgia in September 2019 with new clinics following on its heels. Walmart’s Care Clinic not only offers treatment for minor illnesses and injuries but covers vaccinations, physicals, labs, X-rays, and even dental and eye care in one location at a much lower cost than more traditional avenues. Consumers can even view pricing information on the website before they make an appointment online. A perfect blend of convenience and transparency.

[Related reading: Healthcare’s Big Reveal Sets a Precedent]

But Walmart’s not stopping there.

The company is foreseeing a growing need for consumer-driven healthcare. Walmart is investing in its people by offering education benefits to prepare the workforce for jobs in health-related fields to fill future healthcare positions company-wide. Ever forward-thinking, Walmart is also planning to offer home care services and mobile health units with specialty services to further meet consumer demand. We will keep a close eye on how the company continues to expand its healthcare services to other parts of the country while dealing with the challenge of data integration with existing EHRs and health systems.

[Related reading: Consumers Say “Yes” to Three Convenient Distributed Care Models]

Traditional Brick and Mortar Takes a Deeper Dive into Wellness

Walmart isn’t the only retail company moving to transform the consumer healthcare experience. Kroger’s recent launch of Kroger 360care expands the grocery chain’s relationship with its customer base by offering a broader range of health services including a prescription drug membership program which helps reduce drug costs by about 85%. The grocer already operates 215 Little Clinic locations in nine states, which expands its growing platform of healthcare interests.

And then on “the corner of happy and healthy,” Walgreens has partnered with UnitedHealthcare to open in-store UnitedHealthcare Medicare service centers in a move that establishes a firmer hold on the consumer health market. The company plans to open 14 Medicare centers in Walgreens stores this month alone where customers can learn more about Medicare and enroll in plans. Members of UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage will also be able to make an appointment for an in-store annual wellness visit through UnitedHealthcare’s HouseCalls program. The companies are already partnering to deliver Medicare customers lower prescription drug costs at Walgreens, UnitedHealthcare’s preferred retail pharmacy. This move rivals CVS’s purchase of Aetna last year and is yet another way to deliver convenient healthcare to the masses.

Not to be outdone in the race to capture a larger piece of the consumer healthcare pie, CVS unveiled its first HealthHUB® concept store last year and has plans to expand nationwide with 1,500 hubs by 2021. (CNBC) Serving as a complement to its well-known MinuteClinic brand which offers individuals access to acute care services, CVS’s HealthHUB focuses on staying healthy and prevention, a concept touted by the primary care patient-centered medical home model. HealthHUBs include expanded services like a lab for blood work, health screenings, as well as wellness rooms for community health events, plus a broader selection of wellness products.

For retail pharmacies, this formula continues to make sense. A one-stop-shop for healthcare services, products, and prescription drugs with the option to use insurance or self-pay offers consumers options, and care where and when they need it.

Our Take: Retail healthcare is continuing to reshape what our country’s traditional healthcare system looks like, driven by new demands from consumers. This new way of “doing business” is a consequence of an antiquated healthcare system in need of a market-based approach. Consumers are bucking the “business as usual” trend in favor of convenience, quality, and affordability. Retail healthcare may just be the panacea the system has been crying out for, at least in the short term. We’re keeping a close watch on this trend.