Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Walmart signals continued expansion of healthcare in 37 states

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Although Walmart did not respond to requests for comment from Healthcare IT News about the latest round of filings by press time, a spokesperson told Insider in June that the filings to do business in 16 other states were related to the company’s telehealth ambitions.   WHY IT MATTERS  

As Insider’s Shelby Livingston notes, the retail behemoth had already been operating brick-and-mortar medical clinics in Arkansas, Georgia and Illinois, with plans to open additional clinics in Florida.   The moves echo the maneuvers by Amazon Care, whose medical group filed to do business in multiple states before the company publicly announced it would be offering telehealth throughout the country.  

In June and July, according to Livingston’s reporting, the medical group filed to do business in 17 more states, bringing the total up to 37.   THE LARGER TREND

“We’re excited to enter our fourth state and open our first Walmart Health Florida location later this year,” said the spokesperson to Livingston. “We’ve expressed our interest in offering telehealth via an acquisition that is pending regulatory clearance, and these filings are related to that effort, not physical Walmart Health locations.”   In April and May, MC Medical filed to do business in 16 additional states. At the time, a spokesperson said these filings were not related to physical locations, but rather to Walmart’s recent acquisition of telehealth company MeMD.   

These foreboding signals make retail giants’ seeming eagerness to jump into the virtual care space all the more interesting.    Telehealth advocates have repeatedly warned about the dangers of the “telehealth cliff” – namely, if Congress does not take action, that the hurdles to providing telemedicine will be reinstated at the end of the public health emergency.  

ON THE RECORD   Marcus Osborne, senior VP of Walmart Health, this past month said he viewed the company’s telehealth offerings as, ideally, part of an omnichannel experience.   One reason may be that the deep-pocketed companies could have an easier time navigating regulations (such as state licensure requirements) that could stymie smaller providers.   

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