People in the U.S. are facing one healthcare dilemma after another, and retailers keep looking for new ways to help. The latest to tap this trend is supermarket giant Kroger, which is wading into the scientific research business, starting with a large colorectal cancer effort.
And Dollar General, which operates in many rural and underserved markets, is teaming up with DocGo, a provider of mobile health services, offering walk-in services and appointments at health vans parked outside three locations.
Kroger's first trial effort partners with Persephone Biosciences, actively recruiting people for colorectal cancer gut and immune health observation. Called the Argonaut clinical study, the goal is to identify microbiome-based biomarkers that might indicate colorectal cancer. The effort begins in the Toledo, Ohio, area, selecting customers of Kroger pharmacies and patients at locations of the Little Clinic, its health services brand. The Cincinnati company plans to add participants through more locations throughout the year.
Between Kroger's grocery sales and extensive network of pharmacists and healthcare professionals, "we are positioned at the nexus of food and healthcare, which provides us with the unique opportunity to increase access to clinical trial opportunities," says Colleen Lindholz, president of Kroger Health, in its statement. "We envision a future where our work transforms the clinical trial landscape and provides expanded trial access."
This particular study aims to explore how the bacteria living in the gut might influence cancer risk. The company says clinical data may help develop personalized medicines and identify cancer-specific indicators. That could lead to new treatments, such as utilizing food as medicine.
The idea is that the company offers a much larger footprint than many health institutions, with 51% of Kroger stores located in socially vulnerable areas. It says it's well positioned to support such trials, with the ability to offer virtual care visits, digital tools and personalized communication to help retain study participants.
The Dollar General's news is quite different, but also based on increasing health options in areas some might call healthcare deserts. The company, which hired its first chief medical officer in 2021 and has gradually been advancing its health agenda, is working with DocGo. It is operating mobile clinics outside three of its stores in Tennessee, offering appointments for preventive care, such as check-ups, vaccinations and screening, and walk-ins for urgent care.
While many retailers offer healthcare services, mobile units are quite different. Dollar General, based in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, has close to 19,000 stores in 47 states. And its DGwellbeing effort, which includes expanded square footage and up to 400 more health-related products, offering health-related products, has rolled out to more than 3,000 stores.
Medical Economics reports that the pilot is the retailer's latest effort to serve customers closer to home. And while many other retailers are already offering more health options, Dollar General has a geographic advantage, with 75% of the U.S. population living within five miles of one of its stores.
The company quotes its chief medical officer, Albert Wu, MD: "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."