Health Care Gets a New Look

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There are times in life when we get caught up in places where we can’t see the forest for the trees. Chalk it up to outside distractions, a fixation on a single issue or, perhaps more likely in the current climate, a preoccupation with a global pandemic.

But while many of us have been admiring the trees, some noteworthy things have come about in the ecosystem of health care. We like to call this space “retail health,” which is certainly not all that new. But certainly, it’s been an active space over the past few months.

Here are a few “retail health” developments worth watching:

• Walgreens’ parent company (Walgreens Boots Alliance) plans to accelerate its investment in VillageMD to support the opening of 600 to 700 Village Medical at Walgreens primary care clinics in more than 30 U.S. markets within the next four years. The plan is “to build hundreds more thereafter,” Walgreens said.

• Walmart, which first opened a Walmart Health clinic in Georgia in 2020, plans seven more of these one-stop care clinics (with primary care, urgent care, diagnostics and x-rays) in Jacksonville, Fla., during the course of 2021. And Walmart has its eyes on expanding the concept in Orlando and Tampa, Fla., also. “We know our customers need us more than ever, which is why we’re announcing an expansion of Walmart Health,” Lori Flees, a senior vice president and chief operating officer, wrote in a blog post. The health centers will be in communities in need of affordable, accessible preventive care.

• CVS Health opened approximately 600 of HealthHUB locations in 2020 in spite of the pandemic. The HealthHUB—with an emphasis on helping patients manage chronic conditions—is where the drugstore is “creating new services,” executives have said.

One other item to note: All of these retailers are already entrenched in optical or moving that way. Not to be reactionary, but it seems the health ecosystem is changing before our eyes.