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Marketing In-Store Medical Services: Flu Shots in Aisle 6
Millions of people with minor ailments or urgent medical needs are using in-store clinics located inside drugstore chains, discount stores, and supermarkets. Across the United States, more than 1,000 stores now contain walk-in clinics, and the number is growing. Hundreds of CVS drugstores contain MinuteClinics, and hundreds of Walgreens drugstores contain Take Care clinics. Both Walmart and Target have clinics in selected stores, as do regional grocery chains such as Kroger and United Supermarkets.
In most in-store clinics, consumers meet with a nurse practitioner or a physician's assistant who is trained to treat earaches, sprained ankles, sinus infections, and similar complaints (depending on state and local regulations, doctors provide overall medical supervision but may not have to be on-site at every clinic). If needed, staff members can issue prescriptions that customers can fill immediately at the store's pharmacy. They are also ready to administer vaccinations against tetanus, influenza, and other illnesses, and provide physical checkups before youngsters go to camp or join a sports team.
The two main keys to successfully marketing in-store medical services are convenience and price. The clinics promote their convenient location inside local stores and emphasize that no appointment is necessary. Most in-store clinics offer day, evening, and weekend hours to accommoget date consumers' busy schedules. Rarely do consumers have to wait more than a few minutes when they stop by to get a flu shot or have a sore throat treated. Having the pharmacy located in the next aisle is particularly convenient for consumers who walk out of the clinic with a prescription to fill.
The clinics are also handy alternatives when the family doctor's office is closed, too far away, or unable to see a patient right away. Some consumers, especially those without health insurance, may not even have family doctors. "We know that each demographic group has unique problems," observes the CEO of Take Care Health Systems, which operates clinics inside Walgreens stores. "More-affluent patients can't get in to see their doctors, while less-affluent patients often don't have doctors."
Price is another positive. The price for treatment at in-store clinics is generally far lower than at a doctor's office, let alone in the emergency room. Although most of the clinics accept popular health insurance plans as partial or full payment for services, consumers who lack insurance are price-sensitive because they must cover the costs themselves. Price is therefore an important element for marketing in-store medical services. Describing MinuteClinic's appeal, a CVS spokesperson notes: "High-quality care and lower costs combine to offer real relief to consumers struggling with the steadily increasing costs of health care."
One characteristic of services delivered in an in-store clinic is a little different from conventional medical services. Clinic staff members don't have the opportunity to develop close relationships with the people they treat, because consumers are only occasional visitors, coming in when they have an unexpected illness or know it's time for a flu shot. In contrast, family physicians can and do get to know their patients very well over the course of many visits. "When a child comes in for something minor, we use that time to talk about other things," says a pediatrician in Rochester. "All of that gets missed at the retail clinic."
For their part, the clinics aren't marketing themselves as replacements for regular medical care. Still, MinuteClinic is aware that one-third of its customers do not have a family doctor. Its chief nursing officer is ready to help with that need, too: "That's why we keep a list of local doctors who are taking new patients at each location," she says. "We want people to establish a relationship with a primary care doctor."
Recent changes to U.S. legislation affecting the healthcare industry, including provisions for expanding access to health insurance, are affecting the marketing of in-store clinics as well. Walgreens is preparing for higher demand by opening new Take Care clinics in more stores and considering whether to offer a wider range of medical services. Take Care and Walgreens jointly market the in-store clinics in Walgreens' ad campaigns and on the chain's website. In addition, Take Care uses its website plus television, radio, and direct mail to tell consumers about the features and benefits of its services. Attention, shoppers: Easy access to medical treatment is only one aisle away.
Do you think consumers would use search qualities, experience qualities, or credence qualities to evaluate the instore medical services? Explain your answer