Walmart’s health centers are coming to Florida to focus on affordable and accessible care for the community in the Jacksonville area. They are the largest private-sector employer, and the largest grocer in the United States. Now, Walmart is looking to become a healthcare organization.
The health clinic will offer full-service primary and urgent care, labs, x-ray and diagnostics, counseling, dental, optical and hearing services, in the same vicinity or adjacent to the retail shop. The fee schedule will be $30 for an adult annual checkup, and a strep test costs $20. A dental exam is $25, including X-rays. With these price points, it will be hard for Walmart to make a margin, while hospitals will be unable to match Walmart’s prices.
CVS and Walgreens will also provide similar healthcare service offerings in various states at their retail locations. Many traditional healthcare provider organizations have been building additional expensive brick and mortar sites to compete. Instead, health systems should explore creative options.
New Partnership Model
Health systems must view big retail chains as an opportunity for partnership. Population health management is a top strategic goal for hospitals, and so partnering with a retailer like Walmart can help educate consumers and help them make better choices when purchasing groceries. This can lead to healthier citizens in the community while helping to meet the hospital’s population health metrics.
Customer trust is a critical element — even more so when it comes to healthcare service delivery, but it won’t be easy. A Walmart-like partnership model consisting of a joint venture is one that should be explored. In this case, the health system will utilize Walmart’s health clinic for outpatient care services, with a fee schedule for the services performed. This model allows a trusted health system and hospital operator to utilize their seasoned clinicians, with the trust of the community, to provide workflow guidance. Clinics will have the support of the health system’s operational expertise, using appropriate clinical protocols for the outpatient clinic. This approach will allow hospitals to focus on high acuity care in the inpatient setting while taking on more risk in the population health management to keep the patients out of the hospitals.
Another partnership model is one in which hospitals work with retailers looking to shrink their physical footprint and lease space within the store to set up an outpatient clinic. Retail shops have the goal of increasing customer foot traffic while keeping them in the store longer. An example of this is Kohl’s, which now accepts Amazon returns. A clinic branded by a local health system inside a retail store will allow customers to shop while getting their check-ups. Wellness and outpatient clinics can look to retailers such as Dollar Tree and Dollar General to help manage population health and risk stratification.
Big Idea for Healthcare CIOs
Healthcare provider CIOs should consider exploring a similar partnership approach. Working from anywhere is the new norm, requiring healthcare IT departments to start expanding and creating new models that support employee’s home office networks and devices. Imagine a decentralized IT support model in which a health system establishes its technical support office inside a retailer like Best Buy. In this scenario, IT technicians could recommend appropriate hardware from Best Buy or provide on-site support for devices that aren’t working at the employee’s home office. This partnership model offers decentralized IT at a convenient location for employees working remotely.
We have also seen an uptick in telemedicine usage, and that trend will continue. Unfortunately, patients often have technical challenges and require technical support. The combination of a hospital clinic and IT support inside Best Buy can help resolve any fundamental technical setup issues so that patients can establish future telemedicine care without any hiccups. Healthcare delivery requires human interaction; digital delivery is not always the solution. Patient satisfaction will increase with this combination if they can seek convenient on-site care, while also getting the assurance that their telemedicine technology used in future visits will be functional.
The time is now for healthcare CIOs to implement and potentially lead bold non-traditional partnerships with retail companies, which may end up being a differentiator. New business partnerships led by the CIO will be valuable, ensuring he or she is a strategic partner in the organization versus leading a big expense department.