Thursday, August 7, 2014

Could Wal-Mart be key to delivering rural healthcare?

The New York Times reports today on Wal-Mart's move into the health care business with clinics in many stores.  A focus of the story is on rural health care deficits and how Wal-Mart could be part of the solution.  Rachel Abrams's report notes that Wal-Mart has been dabbling in health care delivery for some time, but now it's making a more significant move by setting up clinics in five stores in South Carolina and Texas, with a sixth store opening in Texas by the end of 2014.  

Here's an excerpt that attends to the rural:
Like its competitors, Walmart is looking to grab a bigger share of the billions of health care dollars being spent in the United States and benefit from the changes that have resulted from the Affordable Care Act. 
With its vast rural footprint, Walmart is positioning its primary care clinics in areas where doctors are scarce, and where medical care, with or without insurance, can be prohibitively expensive. If they succeed, the company said, it is prepared to open even more. 
“If they’re rolling it out across the rural stores primarily, they’re actually filling an important gap in the health care ecosystem,” said Skip Snow, a health care analyst at Forrester Research.
Wal-Mart says its clinics can offer a broader range of services than the acute care clinics leased by hospital operators at Wal-Marts elsewhere.  Further, Wal-Mart is presenting itself in these five markets as a primary medical provider, which is fundamentally different to how CVS, Walgreens, and other chains are marketing themselves.  

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