BrainTrust Query: Are retail walk-in clinics a cultural challenge or opportunity?
By Terry J. Soto, author of Marketing to Hispanics
A recent WSJ article entitled, The Informed Patient: The New Force In Walk-In Clinics talks about the growing presence of these quick-treatment facilities in supermarket
and drug retailers across the country. Interestingly, the concept, common in Latin America, is already appealing to many U.S. Hispanics who lack a primary care physician relationship
or, more notably, healthcare insurance.
According to an October 2004 article entitled Trends in Health Insurance Coverage and Access Among Black, Latino and White Americans, 2001-2003, only 67 percent of Hispanics have health insurance, compared to 81 percent of African-Americans and 89 percent of non-Hispanic whites.
This has not gone unnoticed by Hispanic Physician entrepreneur groups, which have been opening and operating clinics in Hispanic neighborhoods for over a decade. The appeal of walk-in clinics among Hispanics is broad, even among those with insurance:
- Walk-in Care – culturally, Hispanics seek medical care as a last resort and typically when symptoms or conditions are serious, so appointment-free care, even with long waits, is preferable.
- Lower Costs – clinics better align with Hispanic communities’ incomes and the economic pressures of large families.
- Culturally Relevant Care – Hispanic clinic staff understand that most Hispanics are not oriented towards preventative health maintenance, that they often turn to home remedies or even healers as a first line of treatment and that, typically, seeking out medical care is a last resort.
- They Speak Spanish – probably the biggest draw to neighborhood Hispanic clinics. A recent study indicates that only half of Hispanics understand doctors’ instructions after leaving the office and that 50 percent of Hispanics will not go to a doctor because they feel they won’t be able to communicate with the doctor or nurses.
It would seem that walk-in clinics would be a natural fit for Hispanics and a huge draw for retailers. After all, these retailers/clinics are already in the community, offer cash-based and insurance-covered services, provide routine care, children and adolescent health services, diagnostic testing and vaccinations. Further, they cost less than half that of a regular doctor’s visit and can save equally on other related costs, such as lab services.
Discussion Question: Will retailers pick up on the cultural relevance of walk-in clinics for Hispanic communities?
It is expected that, by the end of the decade, the number of on-site clinics will grow nearly ten-fold to 10,000. Already, retailers such as CVS with 6,100
retail outlets have agreed to acquire MinuteClinic, which currently operates 83 clinics in retail outlets. RedicClinic, which has 75 clinics in stores such as Wal-Mart, Walgreens,
Duane Reade and H-E-B, plans to open 500 new units by 2009.
AtlantiCare Clinics will offer tips for healthy grocery shopping, and is talking to ShopRite about offering nutritional tours of supermarket aisles and
food labeling for healthy diets.
The big question is whether clinic groups and their retail partners will better align their operations with the needs of Hispanics, as they expand into
Hispanic communities. This will determine whether or not this seemingly natural fit can and will be leveraged by the mainstream retail community.