The study showed clinics have been steadily penetrating this market. In 2009, for instance, 6.9% of visits for 11 chronic conditions were to a clinic. Convenience, rather than patient income, was the primary driver. Put more clinics closer to patients and the savings will only go up. These are early days in the pharmacy clinic revolution. Most Walgreens stores don't have clinics. But the company maintains a Web site that takes your location and tells you not just how far clinics may be from you, but how long you might have to wait for walk-in service. My doctor can't even do that when I have an appointment. The profit potential here is huge, but so are the savings. Kaiser estimated as far back as 2009 that 75% of the $2.3 trillion U.S. health-care market involved treatment for chronic diseases.
An aging and increasingly obese population assures this will only go up. Primary care is said to be in crisis. There aren't enough physicians to go around. By using data and nurses, Walgreens says it can fill the gap. This is truly a trillion-dollar opportunity, and it may be why the company's stock is selling at such a premium to the market. At the time of publication, the author had no investments in companies mentioned here. Follow @DanaBlankenhornThis article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.