Yes, the title’s a gimmick – sue me.
Walmart’s October distribution of a health and wellness services & products Request for Information was a highlight of Wednesday’s health news stream. Many of the stories, blog posts, tweets, etc got a lot of the story right. Some got some of it wrong. Here are the eleven things you MUST know to keep the story straight:
1. News of Walmart’s (WMT’s) moves generated plenty of media attention We circulated a meaty collection of them yesterday afternoon.
2. Despite WMT US Health & Welfare President Dr. Agwunobi’s Wednesday afternoon “correction”, WMT’s RFI in fact seems carefully designed to equip WMT to provide “national…low-cost primary care health care platform”
3. Integration of primary care services would seem to be a prime opportunity for WMT – yet WMT’s correction suggests they’re not going there. Our examination of the 14-page RFI suggests that of the objectives it identifies, this may be the only one that they are NOT in fact pursuing as assertively as they could.
4. Their 14 page health and wellness RFI is reported to have been sent to “dozens” of potential service and product providers Oh to be a fly on the wall of the response planning meetings of the recipient enterprises….
5. WMT’s persistence in pursuing a health care business niche, rather than its successes or failures, is the thing to pay attention to in all of this Some of the news headlines to the contrary, health care is not a new infatuation for Walmart. The history of their actions, together with last Wednesday’s news, suggest they’re in it and after it for the long haul.
6. They’ve had retail clinics for years Some reports, and internet commentary on the news, give the impression that Walmart is new to the clinics business. Not so..
7. Walmart is the 3rd largest operator of clinics
8. They began offering clinical professionals commercial EHR software and services in 2009
9. There’s little value in linking their new business moves to the changes they made in employee benefit plans for their own employees Several news stories reference Walmart’s recently-announced redesign of health benefits for their employee populations, implying that their foray into providing health and welfare services and products is intended to deflect, offset, or otherwise “cover” for their health benefit changes for their employees.
To those who sincerely believe there is a direct connection I can only say “Oh, please”.
10. WMT will find some opportunity in diminishing unit costs of specific primary care services – but more in Walmart brand loyalty/’stickiness’ (‘sickiness’?) Along with opportunity there are brand risks as well; health care is not hand soap.
11. Extra reading on the latest expert analyses of retail clinic usage (free subscription required) and broader trends in the re-invention of primary care shed a lot of light on the import of Walmart’s new initiative . A lot.*
12. There are probably more than 11 things to know about WMT’s latest health care business moves, so stay tuned to further installments – especially when there are signs of information about responses to the RFI….
*(UPDATE: California Healthcare Foundation has posted the revised Health Care Everywhere report