Where Walmart Is Headed in Health Care

Where Walmart Is Headed in Health CareAfter more than a decade of transforming health care for its roughly 1 million workers and huge and loyal customer base, Walmart plans to play an even larger role. Marcus Osborne, vice president of transformation and wellness for the retail giant, made that point clear in a recent talk with the Health Care Council of Chicago.

Osborne said Walmart will continue to expand its health care services for customers and employees until or unless the company "hits a third rail" by entering a space in which it can't compete effectively. To date, he emphasized that every significant initiative the company has undertaken to address its customers' top three health care concerns — cost, convenience and access — has delivered value for employees and customers and a return for the company.

He also reported that all projects that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. undertook over the last two years, including a pilot with its Boston-based partner Beacon Health to bring affordable, behavioral health care to customers, performed better than expected. He said Walmart's most successful venture recently has been its partnership with Quest Diagnostics to provide in-store testing services to customers, providing a level of convenience that has increased patient compliance with their physicians' directives by 50 percent or more.

Other topics Osborne addressed include:

  • Access to care: He believes there is a massive underutilization of basic health services, causing patients to put off basic tests or early intervention until their conditions become far worse and more expensive to treat.
  • Variation in clinical practice: Osborne sees this as the No. 1 issue health care needs to address. Walmart has established Centers of Excellence to help employees with complex diseases like cancer and neurological disorders navigate their care through leading clinical organizations like Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins and others.
  • Solving obesity: Walmart has had great success in leveraging the ZP Challenge program and mobile app to help employees with significant weight issues to dramatically improve their health. The program goes far beyond traditional treatment methods of diet and exercise to address family and financial issues.
  • Scaling success: With its vast experience in scaling successful programs across its nationwide network of stores, Osborne says the lessons Walmart has learned could be extremely valuable to health care organizations, which can often experience challenges when expanding their successful programs to other locations.