Walmart to open six health clinics in the Atlanta area by the end of 2020

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Walmart HealthSource: Walmart

Walmart will open at least six more Walmart Health clinics in the greater Atlanta area by the end of 2020, the retail giant confirmed to CNBC.The news follows this week’s announcement that it will enter the Florida market next year, starting with the Jacksonville area. And he announced in June that he would open two clinics in the Chicago area by the end of the year.

This would bring the total number of clinics offering primary care, dental check-ups and other medical services to at least 13 by the end of the year. It already has four Walmart Health clinics: three in Georgia and one in Springdale, Ark., Near Walmart’s corporate headquarters in Bentonville.

Walmart is already the largest private sector employer and largest grocer in the United States, but it is also looking to become a major player in the healthcare industry. Starting last fall, he opened Walmart Health clinics that offer extensive services including annual checkups, x-rays, hearing services, and mental health counseling. It already has pharmacies and optical centers in several of its stores.

As part of its healthcare promotion, Walmart may consider using related advantages to differentiate itself from its e-commerce competitor, Amazon.

The retailer is developing a subscription service called Walmart + – but has not provided details on when it will launch, what it will cost, or what benefits it will include. The program is Walmart’s response to Amazon Prime, a subscription program that has more than 150 million members since its launch about 15 years ago.

Walmart’s e-commerce business is not yet profitable and has largely been fueled by strong grocery sales. Similar to Amazon Prime, Walmart’s membership program could jumpstart its e-commerce business and generate greater loyalty.

Walmart shares rose 7% in early July following a report by Recode that the service would launch this month. According to the report, the membership program will cost $ 98 per year and include same-day grocery delivery, fuel discounts at Walmart gas stations, and other perks. The report cites several unnamed sources.

It’s unclear if any health care benefits will be part of Walmart +. Walmart already has relationships with several telemedicine companies. The retailer’s roughly 1.5 million U.S. employees have access to Doctor on Demand through if they’re enrolled in a health insurance plan. And Sam’s Club, its member-only stores, recently partnered with a telemedicine start-up called 98point6.

Walmart’s new Georgia locations will be in Newnan, Fayetteville, McDonough, Cartersville, Marietta and Woodstock, company spokeswoman Marilee McInnis said. All of these towns and cities are in the greater Atlanta area.

A patient at Walmart Health

Source: Walmart

James Gardner, a Boston-based retail health consultant, said the combination of locations for Walmart clinics will allow the company to test its success in different types of markets. In Georgia, for example, there are fewer primary care options and access to care. In Chicago, on the other hand, there are many large, well-known healthcare systems. And in Florida, he said, the retailer may attract the state’s large senior population who may be more drawn to a low-cost model because they frequently use health care but have fixed income.

He said that Walmart has three major advantages in the healthcare industry: Its low prices stand out from its competition. Its clinics are run by physicians compared to other similar clinics, which tend to rely on nurse practitioners or medical assistants. And it has a ready-made audience of customers who already see the locations as convenient and go there to shop.

“I can imagine shopping while your spouse sees the doctor,” he says. “There are just a lot of permutations that will allow it to fit perfectly into people’s lives. ”

Walmart began testing its new clinics, called Walmart Health, last year in Georgia. The company has focused on their convenience, price transparency and cost reduction. The clinics are next to its stores and share a parking lot. They have an entrance that connects to the store, but also have a separate door that patients can use for their privacy.

The clinics vary in size from 5,200 square feet to 8,800 square feet. They include examination rooms, a waiting room, and larger rooms that host community events, such as a free yoga class or a nutrition seminar. The clinics are staffed by physicians, nurse practitioners, dentists, counselors and optometrists employed by Walmart.

Patients pay a flat rate for a visit to the doctor or other services. An annual exam for an adult costs $ 30. A strep test or a mono test costs $ 20. A dentist exam costs $ 25, including x-rays. A 45-minute consultation session costs $ 45. Clinics accept health insurance, but for some patients it is cheaper to pay out of pocket.

Walmart is testing different concepts to attract more customers. Among them, the company considered a membership-based health program that would offer perks such as discounted telemedicine, free prescription delivery, and privileged access for doctor’s appointments, sources say. close to Walmart plans.

The idea of ​​membership would have allowed customers to pay $ 10 per month for perks, such as discounted access to telemedicine tours, as well as prescription deliveries, generic prescriptions, glasses and lenses. contact and over-the-counter medications. The idea was finally filed, according to sources.

A patient in the Walmart Health x-ray room

Source: Walmart

Walmart has more than 4,700 stores across the country, many in small towns and rural areas that lack health services and medical professionals.

Walmart’s health clinics cover only a tiny fraction of the retailer’s national footprint. Comments from company executives and job postings on its careers website, however, indicate that the company is focused on transforming clinics into a long-term profitable and scalable business.

Walmart brought in Sean Slovenski of insurer Humana to lead its health and wellness efforts in the United States.In an article posted on Walmart’s website this week, it said the retailer was determined to provide affordable and accessible health care – and said the coronavirus and the recession had only created a greater need.

That’s why, he said, the company will open its first clinics in Florida next year.

“The combined crises of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic recession and the subsequent loss of health insurance for millions of Americans have heightened the vulnerabilities of our health care system,” he said. “At Walmart, we understand that means our customers need us now, more than ever. We don’t take this responsibility lightly and are committed to helping our customers save money while living better – and healthier lives. ”

The company recently sought a senior director to help “transform and optimize” the Walmart Health model, according to a post on Walmart’s careers website last week. The post said whoever would take the job would lead “the overall effort to provide a model for Walmart Health to deliver sustainable long-term financial results” and help determine prices, hours of operation and ” strategies to optimize the consumer. experience and ensuring high clinical quality, while also working on expense management. ”

The job offer is no longer available on the career site.

Its careers website lists many jobs for its Walmart Health clinics and a few corporate roles in the health and wellness industry. Some of the job descriptions describe the long-term goals of the company, indicating that it is “dedicated to developing and implementing strategies to help Walmart participate more fully in the growing healthcare industry. of about $ 3 trillion ”.

Gardner, a healthcare consultant, said one of Walmart’s biggest challenges will be making money while driving down prices. He said that building the clinics alone is a big investment, then adding salaries for doctors and nurses.

“There is just a heavy burden of costs – long before you see your first patient,” he says. “It’s a low-margin business, and they thread a needle with a lot of moving parts and not a lot of margin for error. ”

Walmart has taken other recent health action. Last month, it acquired the technology from CareZone, a start-up that helps people manage multiple medications. He quietly registered as an insurance broker and listed job postings for insurance agents in the Dallas area.

As it ramps up its healthcare business, Walmart will be competing with old rivals and new ones. Amazon has shown interest in healthcare by purchasing online pharmacy PillPack for around $ 750 million in 2018. Walgreens recently reached an agreement with primary care company VillageMD to open doctor’s offices in 500 to 700 locations across its stores over the next five years. CVS Health, which owns the insurer Aetna, is redesigning 1,500 pharmacies by the end of 2021 to transform them into HealthHUBs that have a health clinic, blood laboratory and other wellness services. be like yoga and consultations with dietitians. And many large health systems and small businesses like Carbon Health, Circle Medical, and Forward provide primary care services.

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