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St. Dominic hopes brand will spur retail growth

Already strong brand name should help as hospital venture begins with Wal-Mart locations

St. Dominic Hospital is counting on its strong brand recognition to carry its first venture into the retail healthcare market.

On Nov. 8, St. Dominic’s will open “The Clinic at Walmart” in the Pearl supercenter.

The reasons behind the jump into retail healthcare, said a St. Dominic’s official in an interview with the Mississippi Business Journal, is expanding the hospital’s reach.

“It provided another level of access to primary care that would compliment our existing primary care clinics,” said Kevin Flynn, vice president of network administration, referring to the MEA clinics St. Dominic’s operates throughout metro Jackson. “We’re anxious to see the type of response we get from the community, the volume of visits we get as well as how the community embraces this model inside a retail development.”

To reach that end, Flynn said St. Dominic’s will rely on its name recognition in the Central Mississippi area.

It’s a departure from the formula used by a few national retail healthcare chains. Since its inception about a decade ago, retail healthcare has been hit and miss. CheckUps, a company that operated more than two dozen retail clinics in Walmarts across the country, folded two years ago.

Although Walmart has enjoyed strong brand recognition for decades, CheckUps had not, and consumers, Flynn believes, will not entrust something like healthcare to an unknown entity.

“Walmart made a decision to partner with hospitals and healthcare systems in the local markets. That gives instant name recognition and a level of credibility from a healthcare provider standpoint. We’re hopeful with a recognized name like St. Dominic’s that it will serve to compliment Walmart’s brand and increase the utilization of the clinic.

“Where retail clinics have potentially struggled nationally is they’ve had a disconnect between the local healthcare market, and maybe the operator is from outside the area,” Flynn continued. “Co-branding with a local entity like St. Dominic’s we hope will lead to growth and development.”

What will also lead to growth and development is patient visits to the new clinic. Flynn acknowledges that the clinic will most likely not be overrun initially with patients, but the foot traffic in the Pearl supercenter is such that he believes, after some ramp-up, an average of 20 to 25 patient visits a day is a reasonable assumption.

“That would be a nice number to start, and then we’ll evaluate from there. Of course, it will take some ramp-up to get to that,” Flynn said. “Once the clinic is fully matured, if we were in that range, we would be comfortable. We are looking strategically looking at other locations in the market

“The nice thing about this retail health model is it has a relatively low market-entry cost. In addition to that, we’re not only looking at it for the volume the clinic itself generates, but it will serve as a gateway to our existing physician network as well as all of the specialty and diagnostic services at St. Dominic Hospital. So we look at the global scenario and the local scenario.”

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