Dollar General pilots mobile clinics as it targets a bigger presence in healthcare

Dollar General is expanding into healthcare services in what could be a competitive shot across the bow for drugstores and other retailers.

The company is piloting mobile health clinics at three stores in Tennessee to provide customers with basic, preventive and urgent care services along with lab testing.

The discount retailer teamed up with DocGo, a provider of mobile health and transportation services, to provide the medical services, which are set up in large vans in store parking lots.

The two companies plan to evaluate customer response and determine the feasibility of expanding the mobile health clinic offering to additional stores, executives said in a press release. Customers can schedule appointments online or walk in without an appointment.

“We’re excited to pilot new mobile health clinics with services provided by DocGo On-Demand to provide services including annual physicals, acute illness, urgent care needs, vaccinations and lab testing,” said Albert Wu, M.D., Dollar General’s chief medical officer, in a statement. “These clinics demonstrate our ability and desire to work with our customers to bring affordable health and wellness closer to home while equally establishing Dollar General as a trusted partner where customers can access health services.”

Operated as part of Dollar General's DG Wellbeing brand, on-site clinicians can perform physicals and routine checkups, vaccinations, lab testing, diagnostics like EKGs, wound care and urgent care services along with chronic condition management for patients with hypertension, diabetes, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to the website.

The company signaled two years ago that it planned to expand access to healthcare products and services to establish itself as a health destination. The effort included an increased assortment of cough and cold, dental, nutritional, medical, health aids and feminine hygiene products across many Dollar General stores. 

Dollar General said the clinics further complement its DG Wellbeing health initiative, which provides additional health and wellness product offerings to Dollar General stores. As of October 2022, the DG Wellbeing offering was available in more than 3,200 stores with plans to expand to 4,000 stores by the end of 2022.

Dollar General CEO Jeff Owen spoke about the company's health and wellness strategy during a third-quarter earnings call in early December. The initial focus of the DG Wellbeing program is an expanded health offering that consists of approximately 30% more feet of selling space and up to 400 additional items as compared to our standard offering, he said.

Speaking about the mobile health clinics, Owen said the company plans to "test the offering in select stores over the next few months as we continue to work with customers on how to help bring affordable health and wellness closer to home, while further establishing Dollar General as a trusted health partner in the local community."

Back in July, Dollar General announced it was creating a healthcare advisory panel composed of healthcare industry subject matter experts to serve as "thought partners and strategists" in helping Dollar General develop its strategy and best invest its resources in the health and wellness arena. A year prior, the company appointed Wu as its first chief medical officer. Patrick Carroll, M.D., chief medical officer at Hims & Hers, serves on that advisory panel along with Von Nguyen, M.D., clinical lead of public and population health at Google, and Yolanda Hill Wimberly, M.D., who is senior vice president and chief health equity officer at Grady Health Systems.

Dollar General operates 18,818 stores in 47 states. The company is expanding its presence in healthcare while other retailers like CVS, Walgreens and Walmart also plot out their own healthcare strategies. 

Walmart operates 32 health centers in Florida, Arkansas, Illinois, Georgia and Texas. Grocery chain Kroger also runs more than 200 health clinics inside some locations offering diagnostic treatment, ongoing health management, wellness visits and preventive care.  

While it does not have a background in healthcare like CVS and Walgreens, Dollar General serves broad areas of rural America and has leaned into this positioning. With 75% of the U.S. population living within approximately five miles of one of Dollar General’s stores, the company "recognizes the unique access it provides to rural communities often underserved by other retailers as well as the existing healthcare ecosystem," executives said back in 2021.

"Looking ahead, our plans include further expansion of our health offering, with the goal of increasing access to basic healthcare products and ultimately services over time, particularly in rural America," Owens said during the company's second-quarter earnings call back in August.

For the mobile clinics, DocGo On-Demand works with Medicaid/TennCare, Medicare and select commercial insurance plans. A cash option is also available, according to the companies.

“We’re thrilled to expand our existing footprint in Nashville and reach new patients by partnering with a nationally-recognized company like Dollar General,” said Aaron Severs, chief product officer at DocGo, in a statement. “Improving healthcare accessibility and providing care to patients where and when they need it most is our primary goal, and we are confident that this partnership is another step forward in the right direction.”