In the back of the sprawling store, across an aisle from the pharmacy, is the Take Care clinic, a tiny waiting room painted in soothing green and beige tones, with comfortable leather chairs, magazines, and the reassuring feel of a doctor’s office crossed with a day spa. More than three million customers have used Take Care’s services since the clinics opened in 2005 (there are now more than 350 nationwide, including several in the Philadelphia area), and indeed, the nurse practitioner is currently behind closed doors with a patient. So while we wait to chat with Joe, the nurse on duty, Rosenbluth shows me the touch-screen self-check-in computer, where you join the patient queue and log in the reason you’ve come to the clinic. He enters his name and clicks through to progressive screens asking whether he has insurance or Medicare, or will be paying cash, and whether he’s here for a well visit (flu shot, vaccination) or sick visit.
Rosenbluth chooses “sick,” and the next screen asks: Does he have a sore throat? If so, does he have a fever? He clicks yes. Stuffy nose? Yes. Difficulty breathing? (If so, the computer would tell him to go to an E.R.)
This is all very user-friendly, which of course is the point of the clinics: to make medical care easy, affordable and appealing. It’s also vaguely familiar. This is technology I’ve seen before … and why am I suddenly craving a turkey Shorti?
“Yeah, we modeled these touch screens on the ones you order sandwiches with at Wawa,” Rosenbluth nods, grinning.
IN THE MID 1970s, when Hal Rosenbluth was fresh out of the University of Miami and still wearing clogs with his business suits, his family would only allow him on the lowest rung of the family-business ladder: He got a job issuing Amtrak tickets. He recalls hanging out with the other reservation agents at then-hot spot Top of the Twos on Walnut Street after work, and getting to know the business from the ground up. The company was limited by the fact that it owned zero computers, so Hal convinced his father, Harold, to modernize, and personally helped develop travel-booking technology, since none existed. The young Rosenbluth became increasingly aggressive, and started calling (in his clogs) on every major corporation in Philly to court business, landing giants such as DuPont through sheer persistence.
Rosenbluth has the ability to quietly, completely focus on work, and absorb a lot of information quickly, distilling it down to where the opportunities lie. He also genuinely likes spending time with his employees; having beers with the reservations guys was a way for him to brainstorm — how could their work be better, faster, more profitable? When clients worried about airline deregulation in the late ’70s, for instance, Rosenbluth saw it as a plus: He negotiated bulk fares, and grew the business even more.