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Walmart to test tech-infused health-care programs for employees

Walmart employee

Walmart will launch health-care pilots designed to provide easier and better care for its employees while also reducing its own costs. 

The nation’s biggest private employer will pilot the programs as part of its medical plan, starting Jan. 1. The programs include one called “Featured Providers” that uses data analytics to curate local physicians for employees in Northwest Arkansas, Orlando/Tampa and Dallas/Fort Worth. It leverages Embold Health’s healthcare analytics platform to curate a group of physicians in each metro area with a track record of providing consistent quality care. Walmart said it will synthesize data from public and private insurance programs to create recommended lists of local providers in eight specialties: primary care, cardiology, gastroenterology, endocrinology, obstetrics, oncology, orthopedics and pulmonology. 

Walmart will also pilot two other technology-based healthcare initiatives in different regions of the country. In North Carolina and South Carolina, the company will test the Personal Healthcare Assistant, a concierge service supported by healthcare assistance provider Grand Rounds. Personal Healthcare Assistant works via a website, phone number, and app. 

Walmart employees in the test areas can use Healthcare Assistant to address health needs including billing and appointments, as well as finding a quality provider, understanding a diagnosis, and other complex questions. The assistant will also help with peripheral needs, such as coordinating transportation and finding child care during appointments.

In Colorado, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, Walmart is expanding its telehealth offering to include preventive health, chronic care management, urgent care, and behavioral health for associates. Through this voluntary program, employees can video chat with a doctor from their homes, as well as have access to a personal online primary care physician and a team to coordinate specialty care, provide nutritional and diabetic counseling, and coordinate behavioral health referrals and visits. 

All video visits are $4. Associates can book an appointment with a primary care physician within one hour and a behavioral health visit within one week. Walmart is providing expanded telehealth services in conjunction with existing partners Doctor On Demand, Grand Rounds, and HealthSCOPE Benefits.

Walmart says it is testing various healthcare approaches to see what will work best at the company’s scale, which includes more than 1 million associates and family members who receive health benefits through Walmart. After determining how it can deliver high-quality healthcare at this scale, Walmart expects to generate savings for both the company and its employees. The retailer has been running a program called Centers of Excellence that directly connects associates with selected specialists for certain serious medical conditions and procedures.

“If we get this right, we can raise the tide for all health care,” said Lisa Woods, Walmart senior director of U.S. benefits.

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