Healthcare retailers in the news: Best Buy Health, Walgreens, Dollar General
The past several days have seen a series of noteworthy healthcare developments involving brick-and-mortar consumer stores. Here are three (plus one).
1. Best Buy is entering the diabetes care business and expanding Best Buy Health.
The consumer electronics player will soon be selling continuous glucose monitoring systems and delivering them to patients’ homes.
Product selection will be limited to a single CGM make and model, the Dexcom G7, and the retailer is partnering with virtual care platformer Wheel and pharm-tech company HealthDyne to pull off the market entry.
Best Buy—which operates more than 1,100 brick-and-mortars in the U.S. and Canada while moving around 33% of its wares online—says the move aligns with Best Buy Health, which it launched in 2021 with the acquisition of Current Health. Best Buy Health combines 24/7 virtual urgent care with social care, mental healthcare and other tech-enabled services.
The continuous glucose monitoring service is not yet up and running. In an Oct. 9 announcement, Best Buy says its goal is to “soon allow those with an existing CGM prescription from their own physician to be able to upload that prescription into their profile and have the device sent to them.”
The company adds that it will not be able to accept insurance payment for CGM systems, at least initially, although some customers may be eligible for reimbursement through health savings accounts, flexible spending accounts or the like.
The move follows a month after Best Buy Health announced it’s expanding its partnership with Pennsylvania-based Geisinger health system. The pilot partnership launched in 2022 and leverages Geek Squad personnel to support patients who use various homecare technologies.
Best Buy Health president Deborah Di Sanzo in the September announcement:
“[W]hen we combine what Best Buy is known for—technology support and expertise—with Geisinger’s best-in-class care teams and network of clinics and hospitals, we can make a meaningful difference in the patient and caregiver experience. … [W]e’re very excited about our ability to scale these capabilities across the country to further Best Buy Health’s goal to enable care at home for everyone.”
2. Dollar General’s parking-lot healthcare brings primary care to underserved communities in rural areas—and draws mixed reviews from consumers.
Earlier this year, Dollar General began testing the retail healthcare market by piloting mobile clinics outside a few of its stores in Tennessee. This month the tryout receives a full-body examination at the hands of KFF Health News.
Noting that Dollar General is the country’s most widely dispersed retailer—it’s up to almost 20,000 locations—KFF chief rural health correspondent Sarah Jane Tribble adds that around 80% of DG stores operate in small towns. This is “precisely where medical professionals are scarce,” Tribble points out.
Dollar General is partnering on the project with DocGo, a provider of mobile medical services based in New York.
“Deploying mobile clinics to fill care gaps in underserved areas isn’t a new idea,” Tribble writes. “But pairing them with Dollar General’s ubiquitous small-town presence has been heralded by investment analysts and some rural health experts as a way to ease the healthcare drought in rural America.”
Tribble quotes a handful of local residents asked for their impressions or experiences with the DocGo mobile clinics outside the Dollar General stores.
A short-order cook who works a short distance from a clinic-hosting Dollar General isn’t wowed. “I wouldn’t want to go to a healthcare clinic in a parking lot, [but] that’s just me,” she tells KFF Health News.
On the other hand, a Dollar General shopper stopped on his way inside the store offers an upbeat assessment. “We don’t have to go to town and fight all that traffic,” the shopper says. “They come to us. That’s a wonderful thing. It helps a lot of people.”
Over on busy Fort Campbell Boulevard in Clarksville, Marina Woolever, a mother of three, said she might use the clinic if she didn’t have insurance. Natural health professional Nichole Clemmer glanced toward the clinic and called it a “ploy” to make more money.
Jefferies Group lead equity analyst Corey Tarlowe, who follows discount retailers, said the clinics will help “democratize” access to healthcare and simultaneously boost traffic to Dollar General stores.
3. Pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and support staff have walked off the job at a number of Walgreens locations.
Headcounts and exact locations are hard to come by because there’s no union to coordinate the movement and articulate the strikers’ position. However, as CNN reports, the chain operates around 9,000 stores across the U.S., and workers at 500 or so of them told the network they’re interested in striking.
The potentially expansive development at Walgreens follows a small stoppage at CVS. In September, CVS pharmacists in and around Kansas City staged two walkouts. The trouble has quieted for the time being as company leaders have promised better store staffing and higher overtime pay.
At Walgreens, a corporate spokesman tells CNN the company “understands the immense pressures felt across the U.S. in retail pharmacy right now. We are engaged and listening to the concerns raised by some of our team members.”
“Walgreens is committed to ensuring that our entire pharmacy team has the support and resources necessary to continue to provide the best care to our patients while taking care of their own well-being. We are making significant investments in pharmacist wages and hiring bonuses to attract/retain talent in harder to staff locations.”
Dave P. has worked in journalism, marketing and public relations for more than 30 years, frequently concentrating on hospitals, healthcare technology and Catholic communications. He has also specialized in fundraising communications, ghostwriting for CEOs of local, national and global charities, nonprofits and foundations.