Exclusive Q&A: Walmart delves into new tech-enabled healthcare format

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Walmart has big plans for its role in the health-and-wellness space.

Chain Store Age recently had an interview with the discount giant, which in September launched a new, 10,000-sq.-ft., freestanding health-and-wellness facility next to its store in Dallas, Georgia. Walmart Health is designed to provide “low, transparent pricing” for key health services, regardless of insurance status, and uses technology from vendors including Zotec Partners to streamline scheduling, check-in and payment. 

A Walmart spokesperson answered questions about how and why Walmart created and launched Walmart Health, how consumers benefit, and the role technology will play in the continuing evolution of healthcare.

What made you decide to launch a standalone health and wellness format?
“We want to make healthcare more affordable and accessible for customers in the communities we serve, focusing on the needs of the patient and customer. We are building on our history of affordable care with the new Walmart Health center, which offers something that has never been offered before. 

“Walmart Health is providing integrated services all in one place; like primary care, counseling, dental, optical, hearing, select specialty services, community health and health insurance education and enrollment. All at affordable, transparent prices and when it’s convenient for our customers.
What specific benefits do customers receive from the new Walmart Health format?
“This state-of-the-art facility provides quality, affordable and accessible healthcare for members of the Dallas, Georgia community so they can get the right care at the right time, right in their community – we want to meet them where they live. We are integrating key health services in one location, so they can have their needs met in an easy and convenient way.  

“For example, we had one patient come in for a dental cleaning, complaining of a toothache. The dentist did 3-D imaging and discovered he had a sinus infection and not a toothache at all, so the primary care physician was able to come over and examine the patient without having to leave the dental chair. 

“The Walmart Health center offers affordable, transparent pricing for key health services to provide great care at a great value. Customers will be notified on the estimated cost of their visit right when they book their appointment. We are using technology to streamline the process to schedule, check-in, pay and do other activities without paperwork. With an easy-to-use website, customers can conveniently make an appointment, input insurance information, confirm eligibility and get an estimate on cost of their services.

“The center is operated by qualified medical professionals, including physicians, nurse practitioners, dentists, counselors and optometrists. Walmart Care hosts and community health workers onsite will help customers navigate their visit, understand resources and be a familiar presence for regular visits.

“We are combining the strengths of the Walmart Health center and our store as a center of well-being to make healthy living and treatment more convenient, with services such as a personal shopping list built based on a customer’s visit to the Health Center (i.e., a grocery list with recipes and meal plans for diabetic customers).”
How do you see increased digital transparency and customer control affecting the future of healthcare delivery?
“Healthcare is confusing and opaque, so by making it easier to access and understand, a patient can take control of their healthcare journey. From treatment estimates when making appointments to consultations with the providers to deliver integrated care, transparency is key.

“The Walmart Health Center provides affordable, transparent pricing for key health services that may be otherwise out of reach for many local customers, regardless of health insurance coverage, hours that fit the schedules of busy families, streamlined processes and more.

“At this time, we plan to use industry cloud-based systems that we hope will become interoperable with other providers’ electronic health records (EHR) in the future, but it is our goal in the short-term to make sure a patient can access their records at any Walmart or Walmart Health in the future.”