Big drug chain jumps on in-store clinic train

Walgreen Co. is putting walk-in medical clinics at some of its stores.

By Tyler Chin — Posted May 15, 2006

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Walgreen Co. is the latest retailer to join a growing trend in medicine: in-store medical clinics.

Following in the footsteps of competitors such as Rite Aid Corp., Target Corp., CVS Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens announced April 25 that it will open in-store clinics at some of its locations starting this summer. The company initially is leasing space to Take Care Health Systems LLC, West Conshohocken, Pa., which will operate clinics at 20 Walgreens stores in St. Louis and Kansas City.

Walgreens also has agreed to lease space in other markets to RediClinic, Houston; and Pinnacle Health System LLC, Las Vegas.

Walgreens hasn't determined yet where or how many of those stores will have walk-in clinics, said Michael Polzin, a spokesman for the company, which has nearly 5,200 stores around the country.

Offering customers an additional reason to stop at its stores and improving access to care are why Walgreens is putting clinics in its stores, Polzin said.

"We think it's going to be a benefit to our customers and also help our overall business," he said.

Medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, are concerned that patients might use the clinics as a substitute for regular care from a physician.

Like other operators of in-store clinics, Walgreen's Take Care clinics will be staffed by nurse practitioners to be supervised by off-site physicians.

Depending on the service provided, the clinics' nurse practitioners, who will treat nonurgent conditions such as colds, coughs and ear infections, will charge fees ranging from $48 to $68, which is within the ballpark of the $45 to $60 that some of Take Care's competitors charge.

Spokeswoman Lauren Tierney said Take Care will provide documentation that patients can share with their doctors, and point patients to primary care physicians if they don't have one.

The company says its Walgreens clinics will accept most major insurance plans, as well as Medicare and Medicaid.

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