Pharma

Dollar General shuts down mobile clinics, becoming latest retailer to abandon primary care

The move comes as a string of retailers wind down primary care ambitions.
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Dollar General has ended a pilot program with mobile care provider DocGo, becoming the latest retailer to wind down primary care operations, spokespeople from both companies confirmed to Healthcare Brew on May 31.

The retail giant—the largest in the US by number of stores—began the healthcare partnership in 2023 after announcing ambitions to establish itself as a “health destination” two years prior. DocGo and Dollar General offered mobile health clinics with basic, preventive, and urgent care services at three stores in Tennessee.

Dollar General executives previously said in a June 2023 press release that they would expand the DocGo pilot program to more stores.

“After an 18-month pilot, Dollar General and DocGo made the mutual decision to sunset its partnership of mobile health clinics,” Michael Padovano, a DocGo spokesperson, said. “DocGo will use the actionable data, mobile clinic program structure, and resources from this pilot to inform other programs, including its expanding mobile clinic and in-home healthcare partnerships with health plans.”

Dollar General still plans to offer health and wellness products in all of its stores.

The move comes a month after Walmart announced it would shutter its Walmart Health initiative and close all 51 primary care clinics and virtual care services. The retailer cited a “challenging reimbursement environment and escalating operating costs” gave impetus for the decision.

Hal Andrews, president and CEO of healthcare analytics firm Trilliant Health, previously told Healthcare Brew that besides Walmart, Dollar General is the only other US retailer with the scale to “deliver a consistent quality primary care experience at scale to rural America.”

The Dollar General Corporation operates roughly 20,000 stores in the US and Mexico, with 80% located in areas with 20,000 or fewer residents.

Zoom out. Walgreens is also shifting its primary care clinic strategy.

The retailer announced in April that it would shut 160 VillageMD primary care clinics after reporting a nearly $6 billion net loss in Q2 2024 earnings.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported in April that CVS is looking for a private equity partner to fund Oak Street Health, a primary care clinic operator that CVS acquired for $10.6 billion in early 2023.

Timothy Hoff, professor of management, healthcare systems, and health policy at Northeastern University, told CNBC that retailers are struggling to find profitability in the primary care space for a number of reasons, including low reimbursements, high costs, and workforce shortages. “Some of these organizations grew this part of their business too quickly and didn’t realize the cost model in sustaining these,” Hoff told the outlet. “I just don’t think the math works for many places now to have many of these. Some of these large organizations are retrenching and pulling back.”

Navigate the healthcare industry

Healthcare Brew covers pharmaceutical developments, health startups, the latest tech, and how it impacts hospitals and providers to keep administrators and providers informed.