Walmart this week is opening a new, standalone health clinic in Georgia called Walmart Health, marking the company's latest push into the primary care market, CNBC reports.
Walmart's previous health care efforts
Walmart's interest in primary care started gaining attention about five years ago, when the company launched Care Clinics in existing retail stores in Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas. Walmart in 2014 said the clinics were designed to be customer-centric. The visits cost between $59 and $99, and the company takes most major health plans, according to CNBC.
Since then, Walmart has opened a dentist office at one store, which provides dental services as well as blood pressure and weight checks, and in 2018, it leased space in one of its Texas locations to the behavioral health company Beacon Health Options to address the shortage of mental health professionals in the region. At the in-store clinic, licensed clinical social workers treat patients experiencing anxiety, depression, and everyday stress.
In addition, the company in August 2018 partnered with health insurer Anthem to provide patients enrolled in Anthem's Medicare Advantage plans access to some over-the-counter medications at Walmart locations.
There's also been talks of a so-called "megamerger" between Walmart and Humana, though neither company has announced any official merger plans.
The latest launch
For its latest venture into health care, Walmart this Friday will start scheduling appointments at its new standalone primary care clinic called Walmart Health in Dallas, Georgia.
The clinic, which will be next to one of the company's existing stores, will provide patients with primary care, labs, X-rays, dental, counseling, audiology, and other services, CNBC reports. Walmart recently launched the website, "Walmarthealth.com," where patients can schedule appointments for the clinic.
Sean Slovenski, SVP of health and wellness at Walmart and formerly of Humana, is leading the effort.
While details of the new clinic are confidential, a Walmart spokesperson confirmed the opening of the new clinic, according to CNBC.
"Walmart is committed to making health care more affordable and accessible for customers in the communities we serve," the spokesperson said. "The new Walmart Health center … will provide low, transparent pricing for key health services for local customers. We look forward to sharing more details when the facility opens [in September]."
Another source said Walmart may open additional clinics in the future, according to CNBC.
Could Walmart Health 'disrupt' health care?
Walmart's VP of health and wellness transformation, Marcus Osborne, last year said the company's push into the primary care market provides the company with opportunity for growth, as well as a chance to bring more shoppers into stores. This has become increasingly important as competitors like Amazon pull consumers away from brick-and-mortar stores by offering low prices and convenience. "We all want to exist in 10 years," Osborne said.
By entering primary care, Walmart will be competing against health care providers, including large health systems and emerging health companies like One Medical and Forward, according to CNBC.
"Might [Walmart] disrupt [health care] the same way it disrupted retail? It seems possible," according to Morgan Stanley's Simeon Gutman.
But Anthony Brooke, VP of strategy, product, partnerships, and data analytics at GetWellNetwork, said the move could be the "shot in the arm the medical industry needs."
The move could also allow for more collaborations between hospitals and retail clinics, according to Brooke. For instance, hospitals scheduling primary care services directly through retail clinics "frees congestion from the hospital's overburdened primary care providers, while earning patient loyalty by offering same-day or next-day appointments," he said (Farr/Thomas, CNBC, 8/29; Nathan-Kazis, Barron's, 9/3; Feinstein, Business Insider, 8/30; Walker, Managed Healthcare Executive, 9/5).