On the heels of Walmart offering health clinics in certain locations, the big-box retailer is adding on a digital healthcare site—WalmartHealth.com—so consumers can make doctor, dentist, and behaviorial health medical appointments, in addition to scheduling hearing tests and immunizations.
“This decision seems to be many years in the making, since Walmart retail clinics stand to be fantastic for consumers—just the shot in the arm the medical industry needs,” says Anthony Brooke, VP of strategy, product, partnerships and data analytics at GetWellNetwork, a digital consumer health tech company based in Bethesda, Maryland. “Technology is here to help healthcare systems build a better digital front door.”
In what Brooke calls “a bold move,” Walmart lists medical service prices on the site—$40 for a sick visit, $30 for a physical, and $45 for an eye exam.
“I salute Walmart for doing this,” Brooke says. “A price range of $59 to $99 sets expectations for the patient, whether he or she is insured or not. Patients fear medical bills more than they fear medical procedures, which means real-time pricing transparency would be even more beneficial for patients considering scheduling an appointment.”
“I expect to see more crossover collaboration between hospital systems and retail clinics,” he says.
Beyond a possible megamerger of Humana and Walmart, Brooke believes that we already seeing progressive hospitals scheduling lower level primary care services directly with partnered retail clinics. “This frees congestion from the hospital’s overburdened primary care providers, while earning patient loyalty by offering same-day or next-day appointments for last-minute back-to-school physicals and immunizations,” Brooke says. “In Miracle on 34th Street, Santa sends a mother to Gimbels to find a toy not carried at Macy’s, earning Gimbels not only a customer for life, but referrals to all of her friends, too. Loyalty comes with knowing a patient can always depend on your healthcare brand to help them find the best care for their needs, even if that is at a competitive brand like Walmart.
“Patients-first consumerism is not a fad. It is a successful business model to actively reach and engage patients when and how they are comfortable,” he says. “Doing so encourages them to take an active role in their own care, and our studies show engaged patients have better outcomes. Transparency in pricing and appointment availability will pay higher organizational dividends over marketing for net-new patients.
“When a patient visits a retail clinic, be it Walmart, Target, CVS, RiteAid, or Walgreens, the copay is not the only cash gained,” Brooke says. “While in store, there is a high likelihood that something else is purchased, thus increasing the total spend per customer. I am excited to see healthcare systems begin to take a similar total share of the medical spend approach to delivering great service, creating new partnerships that foster innovation and convenience. There are some true loyalty-generating opportunities in extending your ambulatory offerings with select regional retail clinics, utilizing technology to improve your digital front door and provide real-time patient obligations.”