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January 26, 2023

Could Dollar General be a game changer for rural healthcare?

Daily Briefing

    Dollar General has launched a pilot program for mobile clinics at three Tennessee store locations, which will offer on-site services through a partnership with mobile medical and transportation services provider DocGo—a move that could expand access to care in underserved rural communities.

    Dollar General launches its latest healthcare venture

    In September, Dollar General CEO Todd Vasos announced the organization would offer more healthcare products and services to its customers under its "DG Wellbeing" initiative. By October, DG Wellbeing products were available in more than 3,200 of the nearly 19,000 Dollar General stores nationwide, Modern Healthcare reports.

    Last week, Dollar General announced it had partnered with DocGo to open mobile healthcare clinics at three retail locations in Tennessee. The partnership will give customers access to "quick, easy health visits…right outside the store." DocGo, which refers to itself as a "last-mile" provider, sends clinicians to locations to provide care that would typically require patients to visit a physical clinic.

    According to the DG Wellbeing website, the clinics will offer physicals and routine checkups, vaccinations and immunizations, and screening and lab testing. In addition, they will provide urgent care services and care for chronic conditions, including hypertension and diabetes.

    The clinics will accept Medicaid, Medicare, and select private insurance plans. They will bill health plans at urgent care center rates. If the pilot is successful, the company said it will likely expand the mobile clinics to additional locations.

    Could Dollar General's clinics be a game changer for rural healthcare?

    Dollar General is not the first retailer to launch a "retail healthcare" business. However, some experts believe the company could be uniquely poised to expand access to care in rural, underserved communities.

    Dollar General's widespread presence in rural areas could serve as a competitive advantage. Currently, the company estimates that 75% of the U.S. population lives within five miles of one of its stores. In addition, many of its retail locations are in areas that are far from traditional healthcare options and other "retail healthcare" companies.

    Still, as Dollar General continues expanding its healthcare presence, some experts have noted that the retailer may face staffing issues like those that exist in the larger healthcare sector.

    "Anybody that wants to do something new is going to have to figure out how to staff up," said Jeff Goldsmith, president of healthcare consultancy Health Futures. "Any one of these folks, whether they're an existing hospital system or a new primary-care physician enterprise like Oak Street or whatever, I mean the fundamental question is, why work for them? What's the value proposition for the healthcare worker?"

    According to Bryan Niehaus, VP at consulting firm Advis, retailers such as Dollar General can maximize their presence in communities by implementing heavy recruiting efforts and competitive salaries to attract the staff needed to manage the clinics. (Diaz, Becker's Hospital Review, 1/24; Pifer, Healthcare Dive, 1/23; Hudson, Modern Healthcare, 1/23; Balasubramanian, Forbes, 1/22)

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