What could Dollar General’s rural health care look like?
One of the discount chains with the most stores across the United States says it makes a move on to health care. The Dollar General scale – it has more than 17,000 stores, many of which are in rural communities, could play a role in areas where health care has become difficult to obtain.
In numbers, people who live in rural communities tend to need more health care than most. Many, like Gertrude Caruso and her husband, Rob, suffer from chronic illnesses.
âI have ulcerative colitis and he’s diabetic,â said Gertrude Caruso. The two retirees live in a town of 1,200 people on Tennessee’s Buffalo River called Linden.
Linden is one of the many rural communities that have lost his hospital during the last years. This makes it harder for local doctors to stay in business, although the need for primary care remains. The Carusos are also still trying to get help for the lingering symptoms of COVID.
“You will always feel the effects,” she said, sitting in the parking lot of the only clinic in town. “You can’t get rid of it.”
Like many small towns, Linden has a Dollar General.
The company, based outside of Nashville, Tennessee, hired Dr. Albert Wu to oversee the creation of a “comprehensive network of affordable services,” according to A press release. He previously worked with McKinsey & Co. in the turnaround of small hospitals.
Dollar General did not make anyone available for an interview about the company’s healthcare ambitions. The project follows action taken by industry giant Walmart, which is starting to put Primary care âsupercentresâ in many stores.
“Foot traffic is the name of the game – getting people off the couch, away from their computers and into stores,” said retail analyst James Gardner, who keeps a close watch on Walmart. “And there are few things as effective as health care because it has to be delivered on the job.”
A Dollar General analyst at Morgan Stanley said the move to healthcare should increase profits because customers will come back more often and likely put more items in their cart.
Rural health care advocates are watching the actions of these retailers.
âThey’re found in most rural communities, so from that perspective it makes sense. And I think healthcare needs creative and innovative partners to get there, âsaid Jacy Warrell of the Rural Health Association of Tennessee. “But I have some reservations.”
If Dollar General is primarily interested in profits, she said, that might not do much to improve the health of rural America and could end up hurting the few existing clinics that need all the business. that they can get.