Walmart takes clinical approach to healthcare opportunity
With six in-store care clinics operating in South Carolina and Texas, and six more planned to open by year’s end, Walmart has a long way to go before it catches up with CVS (1,500+ MinuteClinics), Walgreens (400+ healthcare clinics) or even Rite Aid (30 RediClinics inside H-E-B stores).
While the odds might intimidate others, Walmart is able to do the math, which shows that millions of Americans have been added to roles of the insured courtesy of the Affordable Care Act and many of those people work and/or shop in the thousands of stores the retailer operates across the U.S.
Employees and family members covered by Walmart’s health insurance plans alone represent 1.1 million people, according to a Dallas Morning News report. A visit to a Walmart care clinic costs employees $4 a visit, while everyone else pays $40.
According to the Convenient Care Association, 33 percent of Americans live within 10 minutes of a retail healthcare clinic. Walmart, according to the New York Times, is opening clinics in areas where doctors are in relatively short supply.
"If they’re rolling it out across the rural stores primarily, they’re actually filling an important gap in the health care ecosystem," Skip Snow, a health care analyst at Forrester Research, told the Times.
One difference between Walmart’s approach and that of others in the space, according to the Times report, is that the mass merchant is marketing its services as a primary healthcare provider for chronic ailments such as diabetes. The drug chains, on the other hand, offer chronic disease treatment while positioning clinics as a complementary service to traditional healthcare providers.
According to the Convenient Care Association, the nurse practitioners staffing in-store clinics are qualified to treat "common episodic ailments including cold/flu, rashes/skin irritation and muscle strains or sprains. CCC clinicians also provide immunizations, physicals and preventive health screenings."
A recent study by Walgreens found 17 percent of clinic trips were for preventive services, screenings and chronic illness visits, up from four percent in 2007. Return visits to Walgreens’ Healthcare Clinic locations increased to 50 percent in 2013 from 15 percent in 2007.
Walgreens has seen an increase in visits from key demographic groups.
- Visits for patients 17 and under for preventive services and vaccinations increased 180 percent;
- Patients between 18 and 64 increased visits for health testing by 90 percent while preventive trips were up 66 percent;
- Acute visits for seniors increased 84 percent.
- Walmart Care Clinic – Walmart Stores
- In Ambitious Bid, Walmart Seeks Foothold in Primary Care Services – The New York Times (tiered sub.)
- More Patients Turning to Retail Clinics for Chronic Care and Preventive Services, New Walgreens Study Shows – Walgreens
- Wal-Mart tests health care clinics with $4 office visits for its employees – The Dallas Morning News
- About Our Clinics – Convenient Care Association
Do in-store clinics represent a significant business opportunity for Walmart? Do you see any issues with the chain’s emphasis on its role as a primary healthcare provider?