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Tennessee Discount Chain Dollar General Expands Into Rural Health Care

Dollar General

Dollar General, headquartered in Goodlettsville, is launching into health care, starting with the hiring of a “chief medical officer.” In its announcement this week, the discount retailer with 17,000 stores hinted at offering in-store services on a large scale.

Industry leader Walmart has already announced plans for thousands of primary care “supercenters” in stores and has been getting approval for in-store clinics in several states. By comparison, Dollar General has smaller stores primarily in more rural communities, which often lack hospitals or even walk-in clinics.

“At Dollar General, we are always looking for new ways to serve, and our customers have told us that they would like to see increased access to affordable healthcare products and services in their communities,” CEO Todd Vasos says in a statement. “Our goal is to build and enhance affordable healthcare offerings for our customers, especially in the rural communities we serve.”

The company has hired Dr. Albert Wu to oversee the creation of a “comprehensive network of affordable services.” He’s previously worked with McKinsey & Company in turning around small hospitals.

Analysts who watch the discount retail sector say the move into health care should boost profits because customers will come back more often and are likely to throw more items into their shopping carts.

Advocates for rural health are cautiously intrigued.

“They are in mostly rural communities, so from that standpoint, it makes sense. And I think that health care needs some creative and innovative partners to help bring access to it,” says Jacy Warrell of the Rural Health Association of Tennessee. “But I have some reservations.”

Warrell says if Dollar General is primarily interested in revenue growth, it may do little to boost the health of rural America and could end up hurting the struggling clinics in the community who need all the business they can get.

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