Health Services, Patient Engagement

Walmart divulges plans for ‘healthcare supercenters’

The company says it’s looking beyond traditional retail clinics as it seeks to create “supercenters” with comprehensive healthcare services.

Walmart Health has opened four clinics so far, including this one in Springdale, Arkansas. They offer a combination of primary care, labs, behavioral health and other services. Photo credit: Walmart

In the past few months, Walmart has been designing a different kind of supercenter — one focused on healthcare.

The company rolled out two Walmart Health clinics this month, in Loganville, Georgia and Springdale, Arkansas.

These aren’t your usual walk-in clinics that might serve as a quick place to get vaccinated or get a cold checked out. Rather, they’re more like a one-stop shop for healthcare, with primary care, urgent care, diagnostics, x-rays, behavioral health and dental care.

Walmart Health’s other big differentiator: A primary care appointment costs just $40. For children? $20.

“We didn’t set out to disrupt healthcare. We set out to meet the needs of our customers at Walmart,” Walmart President of Health and Wellness Sean Slovenski said during a panel hosted by the American Telemedicine Association.  “When we say it’s $20 to have your child seen with a primary care physician, and it’s really $20 … When you come in and walk out and get the bill and it’s still $20, that’s quite a disruption in the space.”

Walmart isn’t necessarily new to healthcare — It rolled out a list of $4 generic drugs more than a decade ago, spurring pharmacies to compete. It also recently bought medication management startup CareZone’s software.

But having a primary care doctor at Walmart? That takes everything in a new direction.


In the healthcare business

Slovenski and other members of Walmart Health’s team began quietly working on the project two years ago. They began surveying thousands of customers about what they wanted. Most customers didn’t feel cared for in the current healthcare system, said Matt Parry, senior director of strategy and customer experience for health and wellness.

“They felt processed, like they were a number,” he said.

When they began asking customers about the concept of Walmart Health, some of them raised concerns that it would be “cheap healthcare.” Slovenski reiterated that Walmart wasn’t just another retail clinice.

“There’s a big difference between offering healthcare services to drive more people to your store and offering healthcare services because you’re in the healthcare business,” he said. “We’re in healthcare. We’re not in retail healthcare. We’re recruiting physicians in all of these areas and bringing them in.”

Like at its stores, the company began training greeters to help guide people through their options when they walk in the door. They also charted out plans to offer wellness services, such as exercise classes and nutritionists.

The team began referring to the concept as “supercenters for healthcare,” with the idea of bringing all of these disparate services together and cutting out the middlemen to reduce costs.

“How do we cut out all the goo where everyone’s getting a penny here and a nickel there. How do we shave all of that out so we can get to a price point?” Slovenski said.

Most of the clinics’ prices are designed around cash pay. While the clinics do accept insurance, patients might choose not to use it — why would you pay a $50 copay for an appointment that costs $40 in cash?

For those without coverage, it also opens an opportunity to get care. Some of the clinics’ first patients were people who hadn’t been in the healthcare system for 10 or 20 years — or ever, Walmart Health Director of Operations Amber Bynum said.

Currently, Walmart has four clinics under this model, three of which are in Georgia and the new one in Arkansas. It plans to roll out more in the future.

For patients who need specialty services, Walmart currently makes referrals out to other providers in the community. Further down the line, Slovenski indicated the company might be open to offering more in the future.

“Eventually, we may offer some of those true specialty type services,” he said. “We’re making sure we get these basic services and the model right the first couple of years, and then we’ll add onto that.”