Senior director, U.S. strategy and benefits design, Walmart
One of Walmart’s most prominent initiatives has been its Centers of Excellence program, which offers employees specialized treatment for cancer, knee and hip replacements; organ transplantation; spine surgery; and more at some of the nation's most well-known health systems, including the Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic and Virginia Mason Medical Center. For most of the procedures, 100% of the cost of travel and treatment is covered. About 20% of patients evaluated for joint replacement in a center of excellence avoided surgery, according to a 2019 article Woods and her colleagues published in the Harvard Business Review. Even in instances where the cost of a procedure is higher at a center of excellence site—8% in the case of spine surgery—the overall cost is lower because patients are discharged earlier, have lower readmission rates and return to work sooner.
How do you identify opportunities for innovation?
The future of healthcare hinges on access to quality, affordable care. But in order to really raise the bar across the industry, we need a shift in the way healthcare is delivered nationwide. Creating a large network that includes all industry stakeholders, talking to and ideating with this network, as well as with new companies offering creative solutions, really helps me imagine what’s possible to create positive solutions. I know that, because of Walmart’s size and scale, I have a unique opportunity to make a difference … I also see it for what it is: a great opportunity to drive innovation.
What advice do you have for people who know how to get an idea in front of managers but may be afraid of failing?
One of the most important things I’ve learned over the years is that it’s OK to make mistakes as long as you learn. My advice is to put yourself out there and don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t go your way right away. Because if you’re learning, you’re succeeding. It also helps being part of the right company. At Walmart, I’ve been supported every step of the way.
How do you stay focused on innovation during a crisis?
I don’t see the pandemic as an obstacle to innovation I see it as a driver. COVID-19 has forced all of us to innovate even more than we were before and at a much quicker pace. We’ve made telehealth options widely available and free to our associates. We’ve found innovative ways to get more money into their hands faster. And we’re working on new ways to boost quality and reduce unnecessary care. These are initiatives that will serve us well into the future.