Midday Report: Rite Aid Expands Online Clinic Program


Rite Aid Corp. (RAD) has expanded a new drugstore clinic that allows customers to visit virtually with doctors who can diagnose conditions and prescribe medications based on a 10-minute consultation.

The Camp Hill, Pa., company says its NowClinic Online Care services are available in 58 pharmacies in four cities: Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The drugstore chain had been testing the concept in nine Detroit pharmacies.

Customers can have private video or phone conversations with physicians. The consultations cost $45.

Rite Aid Corp. is the nation's third-largest drugstore operator, with more than 4,600 stores in 31 states and the District of Columbia. It trails Walgreen Co. (WAG) and CVS Caremark Corp. (CVS), which both run in-store clinic programs. Walgreen operates more than 370 Take Care clinics, while CVS runs more than 600 MinuteClinics staffed with nurse practitioners or physician assistants. Rite Aid's presence in this business has been much smaller - it's run about 16 in-store clinics at stores around the country, through partnerships with regional health care systems.

Rite Aid's new clinics opened in existing stores in consultation rooms used by pharmacists for immunizations or to talk to patients, said a spokeswoman. Doctors or nurses won't be onsite, but pharmacists will be available to help customers if they need it.

Customers also can have video or phone chats for free with a nurse, who can give them information on common conditions or help them figure out the right health care provider.

Shares of Rite Aid climbed 3 cents to $1.67 in Friday morning trading, while Walgreen rose 2 cents to $40.96 and CVS advanced 4 cents to $51.16. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index fell slightly.