Integrated healthcare, supermarket style

by Movers and shakers, News

Imagine a superpolyclinic led by dentistry — after lots of talk (and hype) Walmart is in trials. The US based multinational retailer (and owner of ASDA), which has a chain of hypermarkets, discount department stores and grocery stores, has just appointed its first head of dentistry He will work with its “new, revolutionary model which will be focused on dental medical integration and increasing access to care, offering customers new ways to save money”.

The corporation is aiming to break through traditional lengthy cross-discipline referral patterns by providing holistic healthcare under one roof. It certainly has the seed capital: Walmart’s fiscal year ended on January 31 with a total revenue of $514.4bn.

From a customer perspective it makes loads of sense. The first Walmart Health Center megastore opened in Dallas in September, a 10,000 square foot facility with:

  • Primary and urgent care
  • Dentistry
  • Counselling
  • Labs and x-rays
  • Health screening
  • Optometry
  • Hearing
  • Fitness & nutrition
  • Health insurance education & enrolment

Footfall has tripled initial expectations and there are plans to build about 12 more facilities in the next year. This is a hyper-powered version of the business model I described six years ago in Moonwalking For Dentists, which was a cross-referring wellness collection of companies. Walmart has the brawn and the cash to do it big — I’m really interested to see how its first year goes.

There is certainly a thirst for Walmart’s “save money, live better” brand in the US health sector. I wonder how long it will be before corporate money finds its way into a version of this in Europe, Canada and the Antipodean market. Let’s be fair, the UK/ ROI supermarket is under immense pressure from the likes of Lidl and Aldi, not to mention changing shopping patterns and the growing importance of convenience chains, all desperate to find ways to leverage their plateauing customer base.

The Walmart dental/health proposition is about providing low, transparent pricing for key health services for local families. Kids get an annual primary care check-up for $20, lab tests start at $10, and teeth cleaning for adults is $25, regardless of insurance status. Customers get an estimated cost of their visit when they book their appointment.

Here’s the fee list.

Onsite ‘care hosts’ and ‘community health workers’ help customers through their visits, and technology streamlines the fee estimates, bookings, check-ins and payments. I wonder how much territory this new class of low cost and convenient second tier hospital is going to be taking away from the NHS in the near future.

Inside the Walmart Health Center the Care Clinic does diagnosis and treatment of chronic and acute illnesses, preventative services such as immunisations, and the kind of health check ups you get every year past a certain age. What a perfect platform for providing the systemic healthcare that periodontists have been talking about for years.

I suppose the really unique thing about the Dallas superstore is the power and pull of all the adjacent departments, including a state-of-the-art electronics section with interactive displays, an impressive baby department and hardware department, and a dedicated lounge for customers of the Walmart Auto Care Center to wait it. They really do things bigger in America don’t they?


“The UK/ ROI supermarket is under immense pressure from the likes of Lidl and Aldi”


Author: Jonathan Fine