In-store health clinics and pharmacies have more in common than their roles in health care. They are difficult businesses to develop and then make a profit from.
The reasons supermarkets remain committed to their pharmacies and seek to put in more clinics are simple:
The population is aging.
Clinics and pharmacies are valuable services to offer consumers for the sake of one-stop shopping, and in turn keep those customers from making another trip to another store that also sells food.
And they tie in directly with the health, wellness and nutrition messages retailers are trying to impart to their shoppers.
Often retailers are content to leave it at that. Why do more?
For one thing, supermarkets have made very significant investments in their pharmacies, pay their pharmacy staffs a good deal of money and are developing customer prescription files, which are a very valuable part of the operation.
Clinics are usually run by outside companies that pay rent after paying for the build-out of the space. But a clinic's success — and its enthusiasm for taking good care of the store's customers — will be partly dependent on the retailer's willingness to promote, market and partner with it.
Here are some pharmacy examples — there are too few supermarket clinics to draw ideas from right now:
Giant Eagle, Pittsburgh, heavily advertises its discount generics program, and occasionally offers a high-value fuel discount incentive to new pharmacy customers, especially in new locations.
This month, that same chain is running drive-through flu shot clinics in 11 Ohio stores. (See story, Page 51.) While not exactly a new idea, it is unusual for supermarket chains, and an opportunity to spotlight pharmacy and health services.
Supervalu, through its Franklin Park, Ill.-based pharmacy operation, has expanded its Eating Healthy With Diabetes educational initiative. The two-hour programs include a 90-minute store tour.
Noting the proliferation of discount generic programs elsewhere, and the long lines and wait times that result, Save Mart Supermarkets, Modesto, Calif., instead is guaranteeing 19-minute prescription fills. This is backed by a “dinner and a movie” offer — a $10 store gift card and a free redbox video rental, which serves to tie the pharmacy in with the rest of the store.
This is only the beginning, and in-store health clinics (see story, Page 51) will offer a fresh source of promotional and marketing opportunities.
Meanwhile, the Internet, email and cell phone text messaging are largely untapped communication vehicles for pharmacy and clinics. More customers are checking their stores' websites for all kinds of information these days. Timely email and text messages could play an additional role in reminding people that they are due to refill their prescriptions or can attend a clinic event, which could help boost revenues and improve patient health outcomes.