Is Whole Foods the next retail chain to expand into healthcare?

Whole Foods, Inc. may follow other retail companies such as Walmart, CVS and Walgreens and expand into the clinic business, co-CEO John Mackey told Bloomberg.

While nothing is set in stone at this point, Mackey said, clinics in grocery stores could be a major driver of wellness within the healthcare system. In addition to clinics, the company may also expand Total Health Immersion, the company's employee nutrition and weight loss camp, to its customers, according to Mackey.

"Healthcare is so broken in America," he told Bloomberg. "If we allow markets to work, if we allow entrepreneurs to get in here and do things like I'm talking about doing, we will pretty much solve the healthcare problem in a generation."

Standalone walk-in retail clinics continue to open throughout the country, in many cases with organizations leasing space formerly occupied by stores such as Blockbuster, RadioShack and Sears due to their heavy traffic, signage opportunities and high visibility, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Mackey's model for the potential clinics is Orlando, Florida's Rosen Hotels & Resorts; through its employer healthcare program, Rosen Care, the lodging chain offers employees on-site care in a company-owned facility. The staff of 38 practitioners emphasize wellness, nutrition and preventive medicine, a strategy that has cut per-employee healthcare expenditures to approximately 50 percent of the national average, according to founder Harris Rosen. After meeting Rosen at a healthcare conference, Mackey may offer clinics for both employees and, eventually, customers, he told Bloomberg.

Expanding such services to customers may prove more difficult than offering them to employees, however. Whole Foods has the advantage of offering health incentives to its own staff, according to QZ, but they will be a harder sell for customers, who are likely to have incomes that give them wider options. As a result, it will be difficult to sell them primary care from an institution without experience or expertise, the article said.

Wellness initiatives, Mackey said, are an unmet need for healthcare consumers, much like the demand for organic foods that led to Whole Foods' creation. "Americans are sick of being sick," Mackey told Bloomberg. "They don't know what to do, and there's so much misinformation, which is why we started Whole Foods in the first place."

To learn more:
- read the Bloomberg article
- here's the QZ article

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