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2 years ago, Walmart secretly signed off on a plan to build thousands of health clinics. Now it’s slowing its ambitious push into healthcare.


Walmart Health

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Walmart’s ambitious plan to build thousands of low-cost health clinics across the country is slowing down, less than two years after the retail giant embarked on a big push to expand access to primary care.

Walmart launched its first comprehensive health center in September 2019. The one-stop-shop clinics were an attempt to leapfrog the competition and capture a piece of the $3.8 trillion industry, while sending more people into Walmart stores.

In an industry notorious for opaque prices, the health centers sought to disrupt the space with transparent cash prices for a variety of services, including primary care, dental exams, vision tests, counseling, X-rays, and diagnostics. Seeing a primary-care doctor costs $40, even for people without health insurance.

Walmart’s vision was to become “America’s neighborhood health destination.” The push deeper into healthcare came as competitors like Amazon and CVS Health also bulked up their healthcare ambitions.

Now Walmart’s clinic strategy is in flux, Insider has learned from conversations with eight current and former employees, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak with the press because of confidentiality agreements. Their identities are known to Insider.

The most concrete sign of the slowdown is that the company isn’t on track to meet its earlier projections for the number of clinics it wants to build this year, according to documents obtained by Insider. There are now no set numerical goals to expand the clinics, three current employees and one former employee said.

Walmart’s board of directors approved a plan in November 2018 to build 4,000 clinics by 2029, according to a former employee with direct knowledge of the meeting.

In a February 2019 meeting, the board reaffirmed its commitment to that plan, the person said. The timeline included opening 125 clinics by the end of 2021, 1,000 clinics by 2024, and 4,000 by 2029, according to a presentation to the board obtained by Insider.

Walmart didn’t share the 10-year strategy widely throughout the company or with the public. 

To date, Walmart has opened 20 clinics, the company confirmed.

A recent company blog post outlined plans to have a total of at least 22 clinics up and running nationwide in 2021. Two employees told Insider Walmart initially planned to open more than 30 clinics in Florida this year, but that has been scaled back to about 15.

Why Walmart’s health-clinic push has slowed

Leadership changes, competing business priorities brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, and the complexity of scaling a massive healthcare operation have slowed the clinic rollout, one current employee and two former employees told Insider.

“There is less commitment to the strategy,” one of them, a Walmart employee close to the healthcare operation, said. “What you have today is an organization that’s playing the waiting game — waiting for a core strategic choice to be made.”

Two current employees said Walmart was not aiming to get a set number of clinics built this year. 

Still, several current employees said Walmart continued to back the clinic strategy, adding Walmart was still building clinics and …read more

Source:: Business Insider

      

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