The world’s biggest chain retailer apparently isn’t ready to cede digital healthcare to the globe’s biggest online retailer—Amazon.com—and any other big drugstore chains just yet.
Walmart Inc., which operates more than 11,200 stores in 27 countries and ecommerce sites in 10 countries, is slowly expanding its rollout of more healthcare walk-in clinics in a small number of stores.
But for the first time, Walmart, which has 4,756 stores in the U.S. is adding on a digital healthcare site—WalmartHealth.com—that gives consumers web tools to book medical appointments to see a physician, a dentist, a mental health expert or an eye doctor in addition to scheduling hearing tests and immunizations.
In typical Walmart fashion, medical services also are cheaper such as $30 for a physical, $50 for a dental exam and $45 for an eye exam, the retailer says. Those charges are for in-clinic appointments early. Many walk-in clinics charge higher fees for a basic physical and the typical cost of a telehealth visit can range from $40 to $70 per episode of care, say industry analysts. Walmart’s initial pricing is for patients paying for their own care. Out-of-pocket and insurance co-payment information has yet to be posted.
For now, WalmartHealth.com is a basic website. Unlike other digital healthcare sites, WalmartHealth.com does not offer telehealth visits, post health and wellness content or locate a nearby clinic.
For now, Walmart only is operating clinics in Texas, South Carolina and Georgia. The retailer, which generated ecommerce sales of about $32 billion in 2018, has yet to release any details on how many and how fast it intends to launch clinics—or expand its fledgling digital healthcare initiative.
But healthcare is big business for Walmart and Sam’s Club, its wholesale chain with 599 stores in the U.S. Walmart employs more than 10,000 pharmacists and has a pharmacy in nearly 5,000 stores. Health and wellness products, including prescriptions, also accounts for about $35.80 billion in annual sales, the retailer says.
Walmart is dipping only a tiny toe in the digital healthcare waters, considering big chain rivals such as CVS Health and Walgreens-Boots Alliance Inc. are each investing at least $1 billion over the next several years to add more digital and healthcare ecommerce services. Amazon also is expanding its presence in healthcare via its nearly $800 million acquisition of PillPack.com in 2018.
But Walmart can ramp up bigger online and offline healthcare services quickly and be very aggressive on pricing, says Ashraf Shehata, a partner in the Global Healthcare Center of Excellence at management consulting firm KPMG US. “There is still lots of room for maneuvering in this space,” he says.