The Supply Side: More retailers focusing on healthcare in 2023

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 832 views 

Retailers seem to agree that one sector that’s ripe for disruption is healthcare. Multiple companies are making moves to fill the gaps they see by investing in providing health and wellness services for their customers.

Scott Benedict, an executive at Rogers marketing agency WhyteSpyder, said healthcare is another battleground for retailers given the continued state of disarray in the sector. He said healthcare services are traffic drivers and also a way for retailers to provide solutions that their customers need and appreciate.

“There is a halo effect that can result from the pharmacy and health and wellness services provided by retailers,” Benedict said. “It can take time to profit from these services themselves, but with the customer loyalty you can build and trip occurrence, you can add to the profits and eventually support an extra revenue stream.”

In recent weeks, grocery giant Kroger said its healthcare division launched a network of clinical trial sites at select Kroger pharmacies and retail clinics. The announcement comes with Kroger’s first trial related to colorectal cancer. Kroger Health said it would collaborate with pharmaceutical sponsors, contract research organizations and health systems to conduct the clinical trials.

The clinical trials are a natural extension of Kroger’s services. Kroger Health has more than 2,200 pharmacies and 220 Little Clinic sites in 35 states serving more than 17 million customers. The retailer said 90% of the U.S. population lives within five miles of a pharmacy, and 51% of all Kroger stores are in “socially vulnerable” areas.

“We are positioned at the nexus of food and healthcare, which provides us with the unique opportunity to increase access to clinical trial opportunities,” said Colleen Lindholz, president, Kroger Health. “As a trusted community healthcare destination, we envision a future where our work transforms the clinical trial landscape and provides expanded trial access to the people we serve.”

Walgreens in June launched a clinical trial platform scaling three integrated, omnichannel clinical trial services seeking to reduce the time it takes to match eligible patients to clinical trials. Walgreens also is supporting drug development strategies by sponsors, facilitating trial executions and working to improve diversity in trials.

“Through the launch of our clinical trials services, we can provide another offering for patients with complex or chronic conditions in their care journey, while helping sponsors advance treatment options for the diverse communities we serve. This is yet another way we are building our next growth engine of consumer-centric healthcare solutions,” said Ramita Tandon, Walgreens’ chief clinical trials officer.

Walmart launched the Walmart Healthcare Research Institute in October with the goal of more equitable healthcare. The focus includes more significant equity in clinical trials for drugs that treat chronic conditions. Walmart works with various partners, including clinical research organizations, drugmakers and academic medical centers. The company said that because 90% of Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart store, it can use its community ties to meet more diverse potential trial populations where they are.

“At Walmart, we want to help ensure all our customers have access to high quality, affordable and convenient healthcare resources, including innovative research,” said Dr. John Wigneswaran, Walmart’s chief medical officer.

Dollar General is diving deeper into the health and wellness business by adding DocGo clinics in the stores’ parking lots. The move comes after Dollar General hired its first chief medical officer last year. The retailer’s new healthcare advisory panel convened to help with its continued investment in the healthcare services area.

The DocGo mobile clinics are being tested at three sites in Tennessee. The mobile clinics are geared to take care of walk-ins and appointments for routine checkups, lab testing, treatments and testing for flu and chronic healthcare conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma.

According to Dollar General, the clinics bill insurance companies like an urgent care center. Customers without insurance can pay for on-demand services with a flat fee collected by credit or debit card before a visit.

Benedict said Dollar General’s rural footprint aligns it well to help with routine health care in largely underserved areas. He said the mobile units also make sense, given that they can travel to various locations on certain days.

Amazon recently announced it is expanding its push into healthcare, offering its Prime members a low-cost monthly prescription program for generic medications. The launch of RxPass, allows Prime members in most states to order as many prescriptions as they need from a list of 50 generic drugs for a flat monthly add-on fee of $5.

Amazon said the medications, delivered free of charge, treat more than 80 common health conditions, including high blood pressure, acid reflux and diabetes. The program excludes people covered by Medicare or Medicaid and residents of California, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington.

“Prime members already get free delivery on prescription medications, and RxPass is one more way to save with Amazon Pharmacy,” said John Love, vice president of Amazon Pharmacy. “Any customer who pays more than $10 a month for their eligible medications will see their prescription costs drop by 50% or more, plus they save time by skipping a trip to the pharmacy.”

Walmart recently pulled its prescription savings program from its Walmart+ memberships. Walmart said it still provides some of the lowest prices for generic medications in the country.

Editor’s note: The Supply Side section of Talk Business & Politics focuses on the companies, organizations, issues and individuals engaged in providing products and services to retailers. The Supply Side is managed by Talk Business & Politics and sponsored by Propak Logistics.