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    Publix Plans In-store Health Clinics

    LAKELAND, Fla. -- Publix Super Markets here said yesterday it has signed an exclusive agreement with The Little Clinic LLC in Louisville, Ky., to open medical clinics within an unspecified number of Publix stores this year. The regional retailer will place the first clinics in the Miami, Orlando, and Tampa markets in the first half of 2006.

    LAKELAND, Fla. -- Publix Super Markets here said yesterday it has signed an exclusive agreement with The Little Clinic LLC in Louisville, Ky., to open medical clinics within an unspecified number of Publix stores this year. The regional retailer will place the first clinics in the Miami, Orlando, and Tampa markets in the first half of 2006.

    The Little Clinic will be exclusively located in Publix stores in certain markets, Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous told Progressive Grocer. The retailer is "still working on the details" as to which Publix stores will have the clinics, but there will be at least several.

    Brous said Publix selected The Little Clinic because of its reputation of offering excellent customer service. "Anytime we do a partnership like this, we look for companies that mirror our focus on customer service," she said. "The Little Clinic mirrored us most closely."

    The Little Clinic currently operates seven in-store health clinics inside Kroger supermarkets, with an eighth clinic to open soon, Bruce Peacock, c.e.o. of The Little Clinic, told Progressive Grocer. "Kroger was our first partner in this innovative concept. The first clinics were open in Kroger stores in Louisville. We're hoping to further expand in their network even outside the Mid-South division."

    The Little Clinic is also "actively seeking discussions with other potential retail hosts" in other parts of the country, including the Northeast and New England regions, added Peacock.

    "This agreement marks an important step in The Little Clinic's expansion plans throughout the United States," he said. "We share Publix's commitment to superior customer service and look forward to helping Publix further serve its customers as we install The Little Clinic health care centers in select Publix stores."

    The Little Clinic health care centers, around 150 square feet on average, are staffed by nurse practitioners, who can write prescriptions, provide diagnosis and treatment of common ailments and minor injuries, and offer wellness care, such as physicals, screenings, and vaccinations. The clinics are typically open seven days a week, and most of their services cost less than $50.

    Although some critics have argued that in-store health clinics take away from the importance of a patient-physician relationship, Peacock maintained that the clinics are designed for fill-in health care trips only. "We're not trying to replace the family doctor. A lot of what we offer is convenience. The nice thing about us being located in the supermarket is that someone can come in and see the nurse and get their prescription filled at the retail host center. A mother with a sick child can visit the clinic, and then pick up Children's Tylenol, sorbet for a sore throat, and a prepared meal for dinner all in the same location," he noted.

    -- Jenny McTaggart

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