ORLANDO, Fla. — As it proceeds with a rollout of in-store health clinics, Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, Ark., wants to do a better job of integrating the health centers with the rest of the store, said Alicia Ledlie, senior director of the company's professional services division.
Specifically, the clinics could improve at patient education and counseling, she told the Healthcare Retail '07 Conference here. This might include referring patients to products sold in the supercenter that could help treat their health problems, she added.
“We have really only scratched the surface of what can be done in these sites. There is potential for after-hours service, educational services and counseling, and tailored offerings for specific populations,” Ledlie said.
When a patient has been diagnosed with diabetes, for example, the clinics could get more involved in long-term care, including suggesting a shopping list.
In-store clinics should “leverage what is in the store, such as sporting goods and exercise equipment,” Ledlie said. “How can the store facilitate better choices?” she asked rhetorically.
Wal-Mart's in-store clinics in Richmond, Va., and Denver are proactive with community education and care, she said.
Some of these clinics sponsor monthly learning sessions open to anyone in the community, in which a local practitioner makes a presentation on specific health issues, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
In addition, Wal-Mart's clinics can better promote their “stay well” services, such as immunizations, screenings and physicals, Ledlie said. Those services make up only about 25% of the clinics' business, while “get well” services, such as treating flu and colds, make up 75% of the clinics' care.
The retailer also plans to make use of advanced electronic medical record systems and, if necessary, to lead the industry on standards, as it has done with radio frequency identification, she said.
While creating standards for electronic medical records has been discussed for years by health care organizations, it has not become a reality, she said. Wal-Mart wants to make this happen so clinics in different stores can communicate with each other, as well as with other health care providers, she added.
“How can we as the [retail] host identify an IT solution that these clinic operators can use so customers going into a clinic from one Wal-Mart store would still be able to see their records — and the clinician would be able to see their records — in a Wal-Mart in another location?” Ledlie said.
“You can start to integrate medical records into hospital records; then we start to see a standard medical record. This might be an opportunity, depending on how many providers chose to adopt this IT system,” Ledlie said.
The clinic rollout follows nearly two years of testing, Ledlie said. She would not disclose how many in-store clinics Wal-Mart plans to open in the near future. Last year, Wal-Mart had said it planned to open 50 in-store clinics in 2006, and the retailer met that goal.
Wal-Mart now has 75 clinics open in 12 states, and future clinic locations and openings depend on finding the right partners and available lease space in its supercenters, Ledlie said.
Only about 3% of the up-front supercenter space designated for outside companies is open at any one time, Ledlie said. As a result, Wal-Mart has had to get creative to fit the clinics in.
For example, at a Mobile, Ala., store, Wal-Mart cut the size of the vision center in half to add a clinic in the open space.