Wal-Mart is on track to roll out as many as 2,000 in-store health clinics over the next five to seven years and is seeking to partner with hospitals and systems to offer the medical services to their customers.
In the process, Wal-Mart is using its substantial purchasing power to push for new standards in delivery of clinic care and the use of electronic records.
So far, clinics are open in 76 Wal-Mart stores in 13 states, and, as the company announced in April, an additional 400 in-store clinics will open in the next two to three years. The move by Wal-Mart is one of many involving partnerships with providers across the country (See related story, p. 26).
Wal-Marts clinics have been highly successful, and communities are clamoring for more, said Kate Sullivan Hare, director of healthcare policy at Wal-Mart. Were getting calls from local legislators in communities all over the country asking when we are opening a clinic in their area, Hare said at the National Business Coalition on Health conference last week in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Hare said that Wal-Mart made a conscious decision to not partner with a national clinic provider but instead wanted to coordinate care on a community level working with local hospitals and physicians.
So far, Wal-Mart has leased space to eight providers, of which two are local health systems and the rest are for-profit clinic companies, according to Wal-Marts Web site.
The company hopes to partner with many more local hospitals in the coming years, Hare said. She could not be reached for additional comment after her remarks, so its unclear if the retailing giant will continue to seek partnerships with for-profit national operators.
Aurora Health Care, a not-for-profit system based in Milwaukee, operates 20 clinics in Eastern Wisconsin under the name Aurora QuickCare, including seven inside Wal-Mart stores. Memorial Hospital & Health System, a community provider in South Bend, Ind., runs clinics in six Wal-Marts in the Hoosier State under the name MedPoint Express.
The first MedPoint Express clinic opened just over a year ago, and though they are yet not profitable, the health system makes up for it with downstream revenues such as X-rays and other follow-up care, said Diane Stover, vice president of marketing and innovation for Memorial Health. She said interest is growing among providers in partnering with the worlds largest retailer. We have health systems calling us every other week with these questions, Stover said.
Hospitals should do their homework on state rules on nurse practitioners scope of duties and work with physicians to make sure they are onboard. Extra marketing dollars might be needed if the community is not familiar with the concept of walk-in clinics, she said.
A get-well visit at a Wal-Mart clinic costs between $40 and $65. Of those treated at health clinics located inside Wal-Marts, 79% were adults and 21% were children. About 55% were uninsured and 10% to 15% said they would have used an emergency room if the clinic were not available. Another 5% to 10% said they would have gone without care entirely, Hare said. Convenience, not price, is the No. 1 reason patients choose the clinics, Stover said.
Wal-Mart will soon require its in-store clinics to operate on a common electronic health-records platform so Wal-Mart customers can go to any store in the country and that local provider will know the patients medical history, Hare said.
Today, each of the eight clinic operators in contracts with Wal-Mart use different EHR programs, and are not linked up, said Dave Mandelkern, president and chief executive officer of QuickHealth, a company that runs clinics at four California Wal-Marts. Theyre using their buying power as Wal-Mart to make this happen, he said, adding that he will likely switch all other QuickHealth clinics to whichever EHR system Wal-Mart adopts.
Hare said the retail giant is also working with regulatory agencies to ensure that the clinics meet the highest standards of medical care. The American Medical Association in June called on state and federal regulators to probe store-based clinics (July 2/9, p. 18).