Walmart Health enters the healthcare marketplace

Walmart opens new Urgent Care Facility
Photo: courtesy of Walmart

What do all of these brands have in common? Apple, Amazon, Google, and now Walmart.

If you have been reading the blogs here, you will know that Apple, Amazon, and Google have all stepped into the healthcare industry, and now Walmart has opened it's first Urgent Care center.

Named "Walmart Health," this new urgent care facility and is located in Dallas, Georgia, roughly 45 minutes from Atlanta. This new facility is not the limited services "Care Clinics" that Walmart operated in other areas of Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas. This new facility offers services ranging from primary care, X-ray and EKG, counseling, dental, optical, hearing, and community health services. In essence, Walmart Health will offer a complete selection of services for the entire family except for emergency treatment of injuries and illness. And when we say the entire family, we mean the whole family, including the family pets. Walmart Health will also offer an "Essential PetCare Clinic" for routine vaccinations and minor illnesses at their Port Richey Walmart store. With the success of this veterinary clinic in Port Richey, it will not be a hard decision to expand these veterinary clinics to other locations.

Additionally, Walmart has retail pharmacies and vision centers located in most stores. The retailer has recently begun updating the look and experience at these two mainstays in their shopping centers. As part of the renovations, these two departments will increase the use of technology to enhance the patient experience and reduce wait times to give a higher level of customer experience.

As one of the critical factors to Walmart's industry success, Walmart Health will offer value upfront pricing for their services. Patients will receive an estimated cost of services when booking their appointment. As an individual who has visited his fair share of urgent care centers and hospitals, I have never once known what my out of pocket costs were until months later when insurance had paid the facility, and they sent me an invoice.

What will separate Walmart Health from many urgent care facilities is the fact that it is staffed primarily with physicians and medical specialists as well as nurses, physicians assistants, and nurse practitioners. This fact translates to patients seeing doctors for first-time visits and more severe illnesses/injuries and then follow-ups with physicians assistants and nurse practitioners. At my previous primary care physician's office, of which I was a patient for eight years, I never once met with the doctor but instead was treated by his physicians assistants and nurse practitioners. (After mentioning this to my wife, I have since left that practice for greener pastures and am very happy with my new primary care physician.)

When following the progress of Walmart's venture into healthcare over the last three years, its long term vision becomes clear. With another Walmart Health full-service urgent care facility scheduled to open in Calhoun, Georgia, in 2020, Walmart is looking at these new facilities as a serious strategy. With over 4500 retail superstore locations in the United States, Walmart could make the most significant impact of the global brands that have stepped into healthcare. For some areas, this could be the solution to the rural healthcare crisis we have covered in our blogs in November 2018 and June 2019. With nearly 20% of rural healthcare facilities on the brink of insolvency or closing, Walmart can fill the gap for the underserved people in these rural areas.

For healthcare facilities located in city centers that are fighting for market share, these new Walmart Health Centers will add a new level of competition to an already overcrowded marketplace. With its value, up-front pricing model, and the use of technology, Walmart will grab the attention of the value-conscious consumer and those looking for alternatives to traditional healthcare facilities.

Let's face it; if Walmart wants to throw money at this new concept, we know by their business model, they will eventually disrupt the businesses of the small primary care facilities and urgent care centers. So what can facilities do to compete with Walmart Health? One of the factors that can differentiate a small hospital or urgent care facility is the quality and accuracy of the care received. Choosing state-of-the-art technology, such as the highest quality x-ray equipment, is imperative for a facility to stand out versus a Walmart or other big-box urgent care facility. Becker's Hospital Review lists Clinical Quality* as one of the top factors in differentiating modern Urgent Care sites. As a medical professional, where would you prefer to take a family member for an x-ray? To urgent care or other medical facilities that are using outdated equipment such as CR or film? Or to a modern facility that uses DR x-ray equipment? Regardless of your opinion of Walmart in general, wouldn't you prefer a better quality image for the physician to diagnose your illness or injury, than worry about the name of the facility?