With the country getting ready to celebrate Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, we’re turning our eyes to the rise of a new trend known as “retail healthcare”. Major retailers like Walmart and CVS are starting to offer healthcare services in-store in an effort to expand patient access to care. These new retail healthcare centers are designed with customers in mind, but it could change the face of the industry as we know it, with major brands like Walmart leading the charge. Patients may soon visit their doctor in between runs to the grocery store, creating an entirely new kind of healthcare experience.
As you start your holiday shopping, take a look inside the future of retail healthcare.
Why Walmart, Why Now?
The healthcare industry is booming as the U.S. continues to spend more on health services than any other country on the planet. With retail centers across the country, Walmart is looking to strike while the iron is hot. The company oversees 11,300 stores across 27 countries. It sells around 75 million different products, making it a one-stop-shop for millions of Americans.
Everyone needs healthcare at some point in their lives, and Walmart wants to convert more of these potential patients into paying customers. If patients start visiting their local Walmart every time they need a checkup or physical, they may start spending more of their money at Walmart as well.
Walmart is also the second-largest employer in the country. Taking control of a piece of the healthcare market will help the company create new incentives for its 2.2 million employees. The company recently unveiled a slate of new benefit changes for its associates to help them better navigate the health system. These new benefits are meant to steer employees toward high-quality care providers in order to improve patient outcomes, thus reducing unnecessary care and the company’s total healthcare costs.
Bringing the Doctors to the Patients
From Walmart’s point of view, bringing doctors and care providers to retail centers will ultimately benefit patients. Walmart customers won’t have to go out of their way to see their doctors, while non-Walmart shoppers can access a range of healthcare services in one convenient location. Walmart employees can also visit and consult with healthcare providers without leaving the building.
The company has just unveiled its first retail healthcare clinic in Dallas, GA. The shopping center features an adjacent healthcare clinic with a separate entrance, though patients and providers can also move seamlessly between the two. The center is designed to meet the needs of most patients. It offers the following healthcare services:
- Primary care
- Dental care
- Vision care
- Psychiatric counseling
- A range of health education and wellness programs
Patients don’t have to worry as much about insurance as they would at a typical doctor’s office. All services cost a flat fee, even for the uninsured. Patients can order healthcare services on demand as if they were ordering a massage. Prices include: $40 for a primary care visit, $50 for an adult to get a dental checkup and cleaning, $45 for a visit for an eye appointment and $1 per minute to see the therapist. The clinic also offers onsite laboratory services and imaging for both primary and dental care.
Regardless of what these patients might need, healthcare providers, such as nutritionists and physical therapists, can walk through the store with the patient to help them what they need. Providers can help patients select nutritional food options or answer their questions about their health as they shop around the store. If a patient is diagnosed with a chronic condition, such as diabetes or liver disease, they’ll need to change their diet. Patients living with Alzheimer’s disease or those with limited mobility may need to adjust their living space by adding step ladders and benches for showering – all of which is available right there at Walmart.
Some have worried that combining retail and healthcare may limit patient privacy. Patients may run into someone they know at their local Walmart or doctor’s office, leading to the spread of personal information.
If all goes well in Dallas, GA, Walmart ultimately plans to rollout these services at other retail locations across the country, which could change the way millions of Americans access care. Critics of the company have warned that Walmart may soon become too powerful in the healthcare market, giving it more influence when it comes to shaping policy.
While the success of this initial experiment remains to be seen, more consumers may start accessing care at retail centers in the near future. CVS is in the process of converting 1,500 stores into healthcare clinics. These new “HealthHUBs” will devote 20% of their retail space to healthcare services.
The next time you visit your local Walmart, you may see patients lining up to see the doctor. Stay tuned as we keep up with this emerging trend and what it could mean for patients and providers.