MinuteClinic by CVS Health is the retailer’s project to provide healthcare services to more Americans. The demand for primary care doctors far outpaces the supply, and walk-in clinics like these help to fill the gap. CVS opened the first clinic in 2000, and it has since expanded to over 1,100 locations in the U.S. These clinics are in a large number of Target and CVS stores, offering customers a convenient and inexpensive resource for primary care.
In 2014, CVS published an article titled “What’s Next for MinuteClinic,” detailing their goals for providing healthcare service to Americans. They estimated that by achieving their target of 1,500 clinics and continuing to expand, “half of all Americans will have a MinuteClinic within 10 miles of home.” In the last five years, their walk-in clinics have grown dramatically and may soon close in on these numbers. We visited a Sacramento-area MinuteClinic to see first-hand how retailers can improve their customers’ health and well-being.
The CVS pharmacy I visited is located in a residential area of Sacramento, about 15 minutes south of Downtown. This particular store seems to have been chosen for a MinuteClinic because of how distant it is from other medical facilities. Other than a nearby pediatric center, the closest hospital is 20 minutes away.
Outside of the store, there were multiple signs advertising the MinuteClinic, but it still looked like a normal CVS Pharmacy. Though the clinic had limited hours, the store itself is open 24 hours a day. When I walked inside, I was greeted by more advertising for healthcare services.
For the MinuteClinic visit, I opted for a walk-in rather than a pre-scheduled appointment to measure how easy or difficult it is to receive in-store care. The MinuteClinic website lets anyone schedule an appointment at a nearby location, which may be in a Target or CVS Pharmacy. In some states, patients can sign up for a video appointment with a healthcare professional for minor issues like stomach aches, colds, coughs, and some women’s health services.
The clinic was in the back of the store next to the pharmacy, and had a small section with chairs that served as a waiting room. For both walk-ins and appointments, patients checked in at a small touchscreen kiosk. Additionally, the kiosk handled out-of-pocket visits costs with a payment card slot. The website says that a patient can pay for healthcare services with cash, but the kiosk only prompted a card payment. Patients using their medical insurance present their information to the healthcare professional.
From the main menu, I had a choice of different services provided by the MinuteClinic. This particular clinic had a large selection of tests and procedures for patients to choose from, including a two-part test for tuberculosis that requires a follow-up visit. Prices for the services were listed on a monitor, changing every 15 seconds to the next section of the “menu.”
Surrounding Store and Advertising
Hand sanitizer, face masks, and tissues were provided alongside medical pamphlets to read while waiting for an appointment. After checking in, I had an estimated 20-minute wait time–there were two patients ahead of me who were already seated in the waiting area.
Because I had some time before my meeting, I explored the rest of the store to see how it differed from other CVS locations. The biggest distinction was in the aisle markers: a section advertising the MinuteClinic hung from the bottom of every overhead sign. This pattern had no exceptions, which led to some amusing combinations–such as the clinic ad attached to the aisle marker for liquor, wine, and drink mixers. Still, the store was thorough in making its commitment to promoting its health services.
I grabbed a few items from the snack and drink aisles, and then made my way back to the MinuteClinic to await my appointment. A few other patients had checked in while I explored the store. The doors to the private rooms had sliders indicating whether the room was occupied, and though I heard some murmurs on the other side, the rooms were mostly soundproof. Soon enough, the healthcare professional called me in to the clinic room.
In the Clinic
I opted for a routine physical to get the most basic service, and I learned that the person providing care was a nurse practitioner. After a blood pressure check and some other tests, we finished the physical and discussed any healthcare concerns.
MinuteClinic employs nurse practitioners who can address any patient needs, diagnose and prescribe medication, order and read laboratory tests, and perform any other service that a primary care doctor could in the same situation. In some states, CVS also has physician assistants in their clinics as well, providing the same level of service. These healthcare professionals are part of CVS’s goal to fill the demand for primary care doctors, and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners estimates that Americans make over 1.06 billion visits to NPs every year.
Though my visit was over quickly, MinuteClinic offers many more services for a relatively low cost. It accepts most medical insurance plans, but patients can also pay the out-of-pocket costs themselves.
I grabbed my basket of items from the waiting area and went to the checkout. By the time I left CVS and the MinuteClinic, the drink I had picked up in the refrigerated section was still cold!
The MinuteClinic experience was quick and easy to follow, and it offers patients in underserved neighborhoods access to affordable healthcare. Because the clinic sits in a CVS or Target store, it is far less intimidating for patients who may fear large hospitals and the costs associated with them.
Though CVS relies on loyalty cards for most of its in-store deals, the MinuteClinic is open to anyone. A customer can walk in, pay for their clinic visit, and walk out without any issue. Additionally, if they are prescribed a medicine by the nurse practitioner or physician assistant, patients can fill that prescription at the CVS or Target pharmacy immediately.
Consumers who visit MinuteClinic may be more willing to shop at Target and CVS Pharmacy in the future, and the clinics are particularly effective at building trust with the retailers. With the current state of healthcare in America, retailers can offer a level of personalization that starts with a consumer’s health and translates it into loyalty and grocery dollars.
For more information on how personalization is changing the retail industry, you can view our conversation with Bill Bishop at the NGA Conference here. This article is part of the Engage3 Visits series, and follows our trips to stores like Joe V’s Smart Shop in Houston and Falling Prices in North Sacramento. To view all the services provided by MinuteClinic, you can visit their website here.