How the world's largest company jumped into healthcare

Walmart, the world's largest company by annual revenue, has embraced a new frontier in recent years: healthcare.

What started as a low-cost retailer has expanded to become one of the largest chains in the world, with a reach encompassing groceries, automotive repair centers, pharmacy services and even healthcare delivery. But this did not happen overnight. 

In 2014, Walmart opened its first five primary care clinics in rural Texas and South Carolina markets, and the retail behemoth said it would open more of its own primary clinics before the end of that year and expand its care offerings within seven years. The company partnered with primary care chain QuadMed to staff its soon-to-open locations. 

That year was just the beginning of the company's foray into healthcare. 

By 2017, Walmart had launched its discount prescription program, which was found to typically be more affordable than Medicare for consumers.

In 2018, the company partnered with consumer health and hygiene company RB to launch a telehealth initiative in which customers who purchase RB products — including Mucinex, Delsym and Airborne — from Walmart were offered a free telehealth medical consultation with a physician. And the company did not stop there: its board approved a plan to open 4,000 freestanding primary care clinics by 2029.

The next year, the company opened its inaugural freestanding health center with a newly dubbed business arm: Walmart Health. The 10,000-square-foot clinic in Dallas, Ga., offered services ranging from primary care to labs to dental in one facility. 

In 2020, Walmart expanded the benefits available through its telehealth program, which offers $4 virtual care visits via Doctor on Demand's platform. It also entered into a partnership with insurance giant Humana and Quest Diagnostics to expand COVID-19 testing for its members. It also debuted Walmart Insurance Services, which provides Medicare products, including Part D, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plans through payers including Humana, UnitedHealthcare, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Amerigroup, Simply Health, WellCare, Clover Health and Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield. 

By 2021, Walmart Health operated 20 standalone healthcare centers across Arkansas, Florida, Illinois and Georgia. The company's heir, Alice Walton, announced plans to finance and build a medical school in northwest Arkansas, what would eventually become the Alice L. Walton Medical School in Bentonville. The company also launched a prescription drug saving program, Walmart+ Rx, which offers discounts of up to 85% on commonly prescribed drugs, including heart health, mental health, allergy and diabetes drugs, and acquired MeMD, a multispecialty telehealth provider, jumping into telehealth services.

In 2022, the company launched a medical research institute designed to improve the diversity of clinical trials on treatments for chronic conditions and include members of underserved communities in treatment and opened five new clinics in Florida. The clinics provide primary care, labs, X-rays, behavioral health, dental, optical and hearing services.

Ms. Walton's foundation also partnered with Fayetteville, Ark.-based Washington Regional Medical System to build a new healthcare system to serve Northwest Arkansas.

In 2023, the company launched in-store mammogram services, formed a three-year partnership with CareSource aiming to reduce healthcare disparities and provide resources to underserved populations. Walmart also established a partnership with UnitedHealth Group's Optum to enhance value-based care offerings at 15 of Walmart Helath clinics in Florida and Georgia, with plans to expand further in the future, according to a Sept. 7, 2022 news release from the company. 

In the five years since opening its first standalone clinic, the company has piloted 48 additional clinics across Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois and Texas and formed a care coordination agreement with Orlando (Fla.) Health — its first health system partner. 

Looking ahead, Walmart plans to have a total of 70 clinics — including locations in Arizona and Missouri — by the end of 2024 and is eyeing other health system partnerships and care expansion opportunities. 

"We're on a journey to transform health care, connecting more people to the right care at the right time — at a cost that makes sense," Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in the release. 

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