Wal-Mart Planning 400 In-store Clinics in 2-3 Years

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. said yesterday it plans to contract with local hospitals and other organizations to open as many as 400 in-store health clinics over the next two to three years -- and if current market forces continue, up to 2,000 clinics could be in Wal-Mart stores over the next five to seven years.

Wal-Mart president and c.e.o. Lee Scott made the announcement in a keynote speech at the World Health Care Congress in Washington, D.C.

The health clinics, which will lease space in Wal-Mart stores, will be managed by local or regional hospitals and/or other organizations that are independent of Wal-Mart. The move is a significant expansion of a pilot project begun in September 2005, when Wal-Mart started leasing space to medical clinics inside Wal-Mart stores. Currently, 76 clinics are operating inside Wal-Marts in 12 states.

"We know that customers like and want these clinics," Scott said in comments released before his speech. "At existing clinics in our stores, about 90 percent of patients report being satisfied or very satisfied."

Scott noted that surveys in existing clinics revealed more than half of those who visited a clinic said they were uninsured. Nearly 15 percent of customers said they would have gone to a hospital emergency room for their care if they could not have gone to the clinic inside a Wal-Mart.

The providers running the clinics will determine what services to offer, which will generally include preventive and routine care for conditions such as allergies and sinus infections, as well as basic services such as cholesterol screenings and school physicals at affordable prices, Wal-Mart said. The clinics will be staffed by either certified nurse practitioners or physicians.

The clinic program's expansion is just the latest in a series of moves by Wal-Mart to tackle to America's health care crisis, including the $4 generic drug prescription program, health information technology, and participation in a major coalition supporting comprehensive healthcare reform by 2012.

"We think the clinics will be a great opportunity for our business," Scott said. "But most importantly, they are going to provide something our customers and communities desperately need -- affordable access at the local level to quality health care."

Scott said Wal-Mart customers have saved about $290 million on selected generic prescription drugs since September 2006, when the company began selling prescriptions for $4 each in Tampa, Fla. Available nationwide since November, the $4 prescriptions now account for more than 35 percent of all prescriptions filled at Wal-Mart and nearly 30 percent of the $4 prescriptions are filled without insurance.

"The response has been nothing short of spectacular," Scott said of the $4 program. "Within days of announcing our $4 program, countless other discounters, drug stores, and supermarkets dropped their prices on generic prescriptions. That has surely saved our health care system millions of more dollars."
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