Third Time’s Not the Charm for Walmart’s Healthcare Delivery Ambitions

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Walmart healthcare

With Walmart’s announcement last week that it plans to shutter its Walmart Health business, this week’s graphic takes stock of the company’s healthcare delivery journey over nearly the past two decades. In about 2007, Walmart launched “The Clinic at Walmart,” which leased retail space to various third-party retail clinic companies, and then later health systems, to provide basic primary care services inside Walmart stores, with the ambition of eventually becoming “the largest provider of primary healthcare services in the nation.” However, low volumes and incompatible incentives between Walmart and its contractors led most of these clinics to close over time. In 2014 Walmart partnered with a single company, the worksite clinic provider QuadMed, to launch “Walmart Care Clinics.” These in-store clinics offered $4 visits for covered Walmart employees and $40 visits for the cash-paying public. Despite these low prices, this iteration of care clinic also suffered from low volumes, and Walmart scrapped the idea after opening only 19 of them. The retail giant’s most recent effort at care delivery began in 2019 with its revamped “Walmart Health Centers,” which it announced alongside its goal to “become America’s neighborhood health destination.” These health centers, which had separate entrances from the main store, featured physician-led, expanded primary care offerings including X-ray, labs, counseling, and dental services. As recently as April 2024, Walmart said it was planning to open almost two dozen more within the calendar year, until it announced it was shutting down its entire Walmart Health unit, which included virtual care offerings in addition to 51 health centers, citing an unfavorable operating environment. Despite multiple rebranding efforts, consumers have thus far appeared unwilling to see affordability-focused Walmart as a healthcare provider. Almost two decades of clinic experimentation have shown the company is willing to try things and admit failure, but it remains to be seen if this is just the end of Walmart’s latest phase or the end of the road for its healthcare delivery ambitions altogether.

Walmart Healthcare Delivery Journey
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