March 28, 2010

A Grocery Store Chain in the Health Business?

We’re all accustomed to hearing about retailers in the business of providing health care (Walgreens, CVS, etc.) but who would have guessed that a national grocery store chain would jump into the market?   But, that’s just what happened when Safeway (over 1,500 U.S. stores, mostly in the western and southern states) announced recently that it is now going to offer its expertise in setting up incentive-based health plans (which it has done for its employees for some time) to other employers.  I think this is one of those great examples of “thinking outside the box” – what employers had to do when they started the first on-site clinics years ago.

The Safeway program focuses on strong incentives for change in employee behaviors.  This new venture is innovative in another way, Safeway will not charge consulting fees for its services but rather will participate in any savings gained as a result of working with them and implementing their recommendations.

Details have yet to emerge, but this is just another example of the market just continuing to change.  One wonders what a chain store which bases a lot of its sales on home delivery will do when it gets deeper into the health care business.

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