Wal-Mart and Instant Health Care

I’ve been fascinated for some time by the push from Wal-Mart, CVS, and others into the healthcare market via in-store clinics. As this Bloomberg story makes clear, there is immense appetite for the service, in particular from disgruntled elderly sorts tired of sitting in doctors’ waiting rooms for hours reading decade-old car reviews while trying to get a perfunctory prescription refill.

To the extent that seniors are the target market, however, they’re thinking too small. I spent three hours yesterday in a doctor’s office with one of my sons as I waited to be checked in, waited to be put in a waiting room, and then finally was seen for ten minutes. I cordially loathe going to Wal-Mart, but bring me a Wal-Mart instant clinic any time.


  1. I always wondered, whether doctors are really behind the schedule or these folks make it so excruciating just so that we think twice before visiting them.. I heard how (and what for) insurance companies pay doctors is quite a convoluted story.. So should we take a few chances to straighten that out before giving up hope and commoditizing healthcare?

  2. Agreed — I hate visiting doctor’s offices. I have 2 young children and always try to schedule early appointments as wait times typically worsen as the day progresses. Also, I let the office staff know that I can’t wait forever. I’ve even resorted to telling the office that I will invoice the doctor for time spent waiting, as they sometime do their patients for missed appointments. Why is my time less valuable?

  3. I’ve even resorted to telling the office that I will invoice the doctor for time spent waiting, as they sometime do their patients for missed appointments. Why is my time less valuable?
    I’m sure they had a good laugh about that one. Your time is less valuable because they make the rules and you have no choice but to wait as long as they tell you. Good luck collecting payment on any invoices.
    This sounds like a good idea, but as they gain popularity they will probably begin to have just as long of a wait as the doctor’s offices.

  4. I saw this Steve Case (“who has a minority stake in RediClinic”) talked about the clinic in a Wal-Mart idea in this July 06 interview with Charlie Rose here (now on Google Video),
    Agreeing with Steve or not, I think this is a good video to get some insight into the matter.

  5. The joys of a 3rd-party payer system. Actually, my father is a physician and he’s had a number of patents who really like him switch doctors when they move employers because he’s out-of-plan and their co-pay would be $10 higher than if they visited someone in-plan.
    In the longer run, we need to break up the FDA and the resultant perscription-writing cartel that wastes our time and money.
    The thing I’m surprised about is that “Concierge Care” services, where people pay a retainer to a doctor who only takes on a small number of patients. There are some in LA, but none that I know of in SF or Silicon Valley.
    BTW: Up for dinner in LA Tues?

  6. The miniclinic concept has enormous potential both from a cost savings as well as a convenience standpoint for consumers.
    I’ve been working on a start up, Access Healthcare for 18 months. It is along the lines of the MinuteClinic model but with some very important and, we believe, interesting distinctions in the business model that make it much more robust.
    There are about 55K pharmacies in the US and right now there are less than 150 miniclinic locations. So there is still a lot of room for potential for growth. In addition there are still many issues to be sorted out with regard to quality, the impact that this type of business will have on physicians…especially GPs and FPs as well as the Corporate Practice of Medicine Doctrines that exist in most states.
    I’ve been blogging about the topic for some time. If your’re interested, check out: http://www.miniclinicreview.com