Walmart has been a health/care destination for many years. The company that defined Big Box stores in their infancy grew in healthcare, health and wellness over the past two decades, pioneering the $4 generic prescription back in 2006. Today, that low-cost generic Rx is ubiquitous in the retail pharmacy.

A decade later, can Walmart re-imagine primary care the way the company did low-cost medicines? Walmart is enhancing about 500 of 3500 stores, and health will be part of the interior redecorating.

Walmart has had ambitious plans in healthcare since those $4 Rx’s were introduced. Here’s a New York Times article from 2014 discussing the company’s vision for expanding primary care.

This announcement comes on the heels of the company’s announced intentions to acquire Humana and PillPack. Walmart will spend $11 billion to remodel some 500 stores around the U.S., including the addition of private rooms adjacent to the stores’ pharmacies. Here’s one description about the chain’s plans to use $200 mm to expand in Florida (THINK: the state will be home to 4,5 million people age 65 and over in 2020, potential candidates for Humana’s Medicare programs. [Just sayin’]). Florida and Texas will see the most Walmart remodels among 82 stores, along with 14 new store openings. In addition, California, Ohio, Virginia, New Jersey, and Minnesota will receive the bulk of the remaining funds, with plans in other geographies, as well, Business Insider reported.

In addition to the Humana deal, Walmart also recently announced intentions to acquire PillPack, a pharmacy packaging firm with the mission of helping patients stay adherence to medications — a big challenge for U.S. healthcare that costs nearly $300 billion worth of safety risks, medical errors, and ill health in America each year. In context, a prescription drug “blockbuster” is typically defined as having global sales of $1 billion annually.

Walmart talked about the company’s growing commitment to helping consumers manage diabetes in a press release here.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: I recently spoke at a meeting in Bentonville about Walmart as a front-door to health for the new patient-as-payor. From the pharmacy to health-and-beauty (THINK: headaches,  vitamins and supplements, and good skin care), the grocery (for food-as-medicine and healthy eating for families), vision and oral care (often overlooked since the Great Recession of 2008), the urgent care Clinic at Walmartand primary care doctor access in the Care Clinic, and Walmart’s “biggest health fairs” convened throughout the year.

As Walmart looks to add Humana’s health insurance business to its expanding health/care portfolio, the company is building a vertically integrated offering with many on-ramps and front doors to health and wellness. Adding PillPack would enhance the pharmacy’s value to help drive adherence and better patient outcomes.

Along with CVS + Aetna, Amazon + “everything” omnichannel in health and medicine, and Apple in electronic health records, we’re in the midst of Fortune 100 companies placing bets for building out the U.S. health ecosystem for the third decade of the 21st century. It will take this village, collaborating with legacy health care organizations, baking in consumer-centered design and financial pragmatism, to bring the various visions to practical life for the millions of real people who shop at Walmart every day.

 

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