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Wal-Mart Will See You Now

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The number of in-store medical clinics in the United States has been growing at an astounding pace. In just over a year, more than 700 of these walk-in offices have opened in supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers.

At that rate, there’s bound to be a few bumps and bruises — although one or two have actually succumbed to poor planning and inadequate financials. That’s why it was interesting to hear that Wal-Mart is rolling out clinics that are co-branded with area hospitals and medical groups, starting in April with a location in Little Rock, Ark. that will be staffed by nurse practitioners from the nearby St. Vincent Health System. By 2010, Wal-Mart hopes to have 400 of these clinics up and running.

By including the local medical community in this business, Wal-Mart is taking positive steps to quiet ongoing criticism of in-store clinics. Organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association have discouraged people from visiting them, citing a lack of quality care and fragmentation of the healthcare system, among other concerns.

Perhaps more important to the consumer is that Wal-Mart is taking steps to upgrade what has so far been an inconsistent format. Don’t forget that, last month, CheckUps, a company that operated clinics in 23 Wal-Mart stores, became insolvent and closed down unexpectedly. That had to hurt.

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