Primary-care doctors coming to a shopping center near you
Date: May 10, 2022

The newest Sanitas Medical Center opened in Lake Worth Publix shopping center on Monday, signaling a growing movement toward health care becoming more convenient.


The new model for primary care — clinics within retail stores like Target or in suburban shopping centers — has arisen out of a consumer expectation of easy access, and quick response times for care. The new Sanitas Medical Center on Jog Road, nestled between Publix and Home Depot, offers preventive care such as mammograms, lab work, and imaging, in addition to urgent care, diabetes management and mental health therapy.

Sanitas, in partnership with insurer Florida Blue, already has medical centers in shopping plazas in Boca Raton, West Palm, Palm Beach Gardens and Wellington. Anyone who has Florida Blue can access the care, or those without insurance can purchase a primary-care membership.

“We anticipate Lake Worth is going to be our largest location in the Palm Beach area and our first hub in the county,” said Dr. Venis Wilder, regional medical director for Sanitas Medical Center. “If patients have a need in any of our other sites they can be directed here in order to take care of their preventative care needs, the completion of it.”

Wilder says a family medicine doctor at the new clinic will treat patients and eventually, a pediatrician will be added. “It’s designed to be one-stop shopping for your health.”

Sanitas, which opened its first medical center in Doral, has 35 locations in Florida and five more planned, as well as locations in Texas, Tennessee and New Jersey.

“When you improve accessibility, patients come more frequently and they do the preventative things like colonoscopies, mammograms and pap smears,” said Sanitas Medical CEO Juan Estrada.

Estrada said about 10% of patients are walk-ins. “That’s why we try to be in shopping centers where people live their lives.”

Primary care, once only available in doctors’ offices in medical buildings, has shifted to more easily accessible formats in planned neighborhoods and shopping centers. In the last few years, multi-office physician practices such as Cano Health and ChenMed also have been fueling the growth of primary-care practices, targeting senior communities or pockets of the state that lack nearby hospitals.

“The beauty of this is we have had overutilization of emergency rooms and it’s causing healthcare expense and waste,” said Miriam Weismann, academic director of the healthcare MBA program and business law professor at Florida International University. “Now instead of going to a hospital you can go in your neighborhood to a primary-care center and you will get to know the doctor well.”

Weismann said when people can access primary care close by and in the evenings after work, they will seek treatment from a doctor rather than wait until an ailment becomes a health crisis.

“Then you are really accomplishing something. It’s a whole different health care model.”