Feature Archive

Health Care in a Big Box

Medical clinics are opening in stores like Target all over the country. Are these one-stop shops a boon or bane to the health care industry?

By Martin Downs
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario

Discount superstores, or big-box stores as many like to call them, epitomize the wants of time- and budget-strapped American consumers: everything, cheap, in one place. For shoppers in greater Minneapolis and Baltimore, that includes not only housewares, groceries, and photo processing, but also health care.

At Target stores in these cities you can get medical tests, vaccinations, and treatment for minor ailments at a MinuteClinic, located near the store pharmacy. A menu posted outside the clinic lists the services available and conditions treated, with a price for each. Sinus infection, $44. Mono, $51. Cholesterol test, $37.

Patients need no appointment, and a visit is supposed to take about 15 minutes.

"If there are two or three people ahead of them they can take a beeper and do some shopping, and we can beep them, or they can leave their cell phone number," says Cathy Wisner, PhD, a nurse practitioner who works at a Minneapolis MinuteClinic and is also a company vice president.

You won't see a doctor at a MinuteClinic. There are none. Nurse practitioners, qualified and licensed to provide the kind of care MinuteClinic offers, do the job, aided by a computer program that guides them through the process. If a patient comes in with what he thinks is strep throat, for example, and the strep test comes back positive, the program will let the practitioner print out a prescription for antibiotics. If it's not strep, then the software won't allow antibiotics to be prescribed.