Health Clinics – Are Retailers Missing the Hispanic Opportunity?

Mar 15, 2012

Terry J. Soto is author of Marketing to Hispanics: A Strategic Approach to Assessing and Planning your Initiative

As retail medical clinics located in pharmacies and other retail settings proliferate, chain operators contend that the new services will improve access to medical care among uninsured or underserved populations. However, these clinics have been opened more often in higher-income areas that are less likely to be classified as medically underserved, according to a new study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine published in the May 25 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

"There has been a rapid rise in the number of retail clinics across the United States, but this growth is not evenly distributed across communities," says Craig E. Pollack, MD, MHS, an internist and Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar at Penn. He added that "poorer neighborhoods are less likely to have access to these clinics."

"We know that people living in poorer areas are less likely to have health insurance, less likely to have a regular source of medical care, and may have transportation problems that keep them from getting to the doctor," Dr. Pollack said. "By tending to locate in richer neighborhoods, retail clinics may not be meeting their full potential to help address these problems."

Retail chains trying to attract Hispanic shoppers should be encouraged, but they should also be very concerned. They should be encouraged because the concept of walk-in pay for service clinics is a norm in Latin America. So in the U.S., it is very culturally relevant for Hispanics to seek out neighborhood clinics in their communities that provide health services in a similar manner. Upon first arriving in the U.S., foreign-born Hispanics often do not have jobs where health care coverage is an option. Indeed, according to the Department of Human Health and Services, three-in-ten individuals of Hispanic origin (30.7 percent) were uninsured in 2010 compared to 11.7 percent for non-Hispanic whites.

Retailers such as Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, Duane Reade and H-E-B have opened hundreds of these retail clinics. However, studies clearly indicate that access should be of great concern to retailers interested in attracting and gaining loyalty among Hispanic shoppers. Beyond location, it is also important that these retail clinics are staffed with Spanish-speaking nursing staff members to avoid the risk that symptoms and treatment could be misunderstood and/or inappropriate treatment or medication provided or prescribed.

Discussion Questions: Do you see retail chains willing to make the effort to attune their clinics to the needs of Hispanics? What do you see as the greatest impediments to the use of clinics to gain loyal Hispanic customers?

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5 Comments on "Health Clinics – Are Retailers Missing the Hispanic Opportunity?"

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Roger Saunders
7 years 9 days ago

The discussion has to begin with the clear understanding that retailers — whether in health care verticals, selling fast food, or merchandising underwear — are not opening a door for eleemosynary purposes. Great chains, like Walgreens, Walmart, H.E.B., etc., are willing to “do good, by doing good.” However, they have to build the model toward profitability.

They certainly should view the Hispanic consumer opportunity, which is scalable and very important. This segment will continue to grow more affluent, better educated, and seek better and more efficient health care. And, a large portion of the segment will seek the opportunity to speak in Spanish.

The retail is there to SERVE these consumers, not SAVE them. In expanding into this vital and important area, it is important that retailers hold to that strategy, and that the “Big Brothers” understand that they should stay out of the way of these dedicated, private practitioners who truly understand the consumer — Hispanic, Anglo, or other ethnic or racial group.

Ed Dennis
Ed Dennis
7 years 8 days ago

Retail indicates these clinics are “for profit”! Does “for profit” mean that these clinics will not have to provide service to the indigent and/or those not willing to pay for services? In my area of the world, the public hospital is the only provider that cannot turn away patients due to inability or unwillingness to pay for services.

Personally, I would think that any for-profit business would certainly consider the population being served when it comes to staffing. The fact is, these private clinics are not going to provide services to the uninsured unless they provide a valid means of payment for services rendered. I can attest that when working with low income/indigent consumers, sending a bill is not at all related to receiving a payment. Often over 80% of bills are not answered. I don’t see charity clinics as part of the structure of Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, Duane Reade and H-E-B business models.

Ed Rosenbaum
7 years 8 days ago

These companies are in business to be successful and make a significant profit. The Hispanic market offers them the ability to do just that, low income or not. Cash spends as well as credit cards.

Becky Arreaga
Becky Arreaga
7 years 8 days ago

The key words here are not SERVE versus SAVE. The key word is BUSINESS. Smart businesses identify a need and evaluate it against the business opportunity to see if it makes sense. In this case, the need might be limited access to medical care. The opportunity or in this case opportunities — growing population base, cultural relevance of the considered service and the even the tendency towards a cash based vs. credit economy, etc. Add to this, the opportunity to partner with local colleges and universities to support/encourage Hispanic participation in the nursing field to build a future or current workforce and in my mind, this is a win-win-win business decision!

Ralph Jacobson
7 years 8 days ago

I don’t think there is as much “effort” as may be implied by the question. If the in-store clinic is a value, then it will be well utilized by these consumers whom will frequent the stores regardless of if these services are offered. YES. Put these clinics in these markets.


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