Health Clinics – Are Retailers Missing the Hispanic Opportunity?

By Terry J. Soto, President of About Marketing Solutions, Inc.

Terry J. Soto is author of Marketing to Hispanics: A Strategic Approach to Assessing and Planning your Initiative and Grow with America Best Practices in Ethnic Marketing and Merchandising.

As retail medical clinics located in pharmacies and other retail settings proliferate, chain operators contend that the new services will improve access to medical care among uninsured or underserved populations. However, these clinics have been opened more often in higher-income areas that are less likely to be classified as medically underserved, according to a new study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine published in the May 25 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

“There has been a rapid rise in the number of retail clinics across the United States, but this growth is not evenly distributed across communities,” says Craig E. Pollack, MD, MHS, an internist and Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar at Penn. He added that “poorer neighborhoods are less likely to have access to these clinics.”

“We know that people living in poorer areas are less likely to have health insurance, less likely to have a regular source of medical care, and may have transportation problems that keep them from getting to the doctor,” Dr. Pollack said. “By tending to locate in richer neighborhoods, retail clinics may not be meeting their full potential to help address these problems.”

Retail chains trying to attract Hispanic shoppers should be encouraged, but they should also be very concerned. They should be encouraged because the concept of walk-in pay for service clinics is a norm in Latin America. So in the U.S., it is very culturally relevant for Hispanics to seek out neighborhood clinics in their communities that provide health services in a similar manner. Upon first arriving in the U.S., foreign-born Hispanics often do not have jobs where health care coverage is an option. Indeed, according to the Department of Human Health and Services, three-in-ten individuals of Hispanic origin (30.7 percent) were uninsured in 2010 compared to 11.7 percent for non-Hispanic whites.

Retailers such as Wal-Mart, Walgreens, CVS, Duane Reade and H-E-B have opened hundreds of these retail clinics. However, studies clearly indicate that access should be of great concern to retailers interested in attracting and gaining loyalty among Hispanic shoppers. Beyond location, it is also important that these retail clinics are staffed with Spanish-speaking nursing staff members to avoid the risk that symptoms and treatment could be misunderstood and/or inappropriate treatment or medication provided or prescribed.