Dollar General's rural healthcare pilot sees mixed reviews: 'I wouldn't want to go to a clinic in a parking lot'

Dollar General is setting out to close a gap in rural healthcare delivery with mobile clinics in store parking lots, an offering that raises questions for some and elicits praise from others. 

In January, Dollar General rolled out mobile clinics in three Tennessee locations for preventive care, urgent care and chronic condition management services in partnership with DocGo On-Demand. The pilot is part of Dollar General's health initiative, dubbed DG Wellbeing, and accepts Medicaid/TennCare, Medicare and certain plans under major health insurers, with flat rates starting at $69 for those without insurance. 

In July, the chief rural care correspondent for KFF Health News visited one of the three mobile health sites in Tennessee, noting that many customers pass over the clinic despite its location in a federally designated primary care shortage area. So far, approximately 1,000 patients have been seen in the clinics at Dollar General sites or community events. 

One small business manager 10 miles out from a Dollar General mobile clinic site told KFF that the retailer and healthcare don't go together. "I wouldn't want to go to a health care clinic in a parking lot; that's just me," Michelle Green said. 

All mobile clinic visits are overseen by a licensed nurse practitioner, physician's assistant or physician. One family medicine physician, Brent Staton, MD, told KFF that he thinks Dollar General is underestimating the magnitude of healthcare delivery. 

"Honestly, they don't really grasp, I don't think, what they're getting into," Dr. Staton, who heads accountable care organization Cumberland Center for Healthcare Innovation, told KFF

While some community members may be concerned about the legitimacy of receiving medical care in a parking lot, KFF also shared voices of support and satisfaction with Dollar General's "little clinic on wheels," as one resident put it. 

It spares area residents from traveling and traffic, one resident said. Another 80-year-old community member said he was pleased with how one of the mobile clinics directed him to take his wife, experiencing breathing difficulty, to the local emergency department after taking her blood pressure, free of charge. 

Read KFF's reporting on the early results of Dollar General's mobile clinic pilot here

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