Mega companies like Walmart and Amazon keep pushing the envelope when it comes to healthcare. There seems to be no stopping these retail giants as they continue to forge ahead with the rollouts of new health services that are surely disrupting the status quo in consumer and employer-based healthcare.

Earlier this month, Amazon went live with their company’s virtual health clinic, Amazon Care, for employees and their dependents at its Seattle headquarters. Through the Amazon Care app, employees can access their providers through video or chat right from their smartphone. Convenient. Amazon explained that the healthcare pilot is designed to help its employees access healthcare fast without an appointment. The employee benefit even offers “house calls.”

Sounds like the trend toward non-traditional healthcare and a Smart Health approach to care delivery continues as we move into 2020. [Read more: https://cantoncompany.com/2019/10/29/a-look-back-at-our-2019-predictions/].

Amazon is no stranger to the healthcare industry, having already partnered with J.P. Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway in an endeavor called Haven to reduce healthcare costs amongst all of the company’s employees. Healthcare AI and pharmacy services are also in the works, so there’s more to come from Amazon and we will be watching the company closely in the months and years to come.

In the meantime, Amazon Care is certainly a model to watch and could have a significant impact on employer-sponsored health insurance and employee virtual healthcare trends. 

Walmart’s “Roll Back” Strategy – Applied to Healthcare

And while Amazon’s potential to disrupt the employer-based healthcare industry is becoming evident, Walmart may be able to create even more waves in employer-based benefits as well as in retail health in a more immediate fashion.

Like Amazon, Walmart is a champion in the employer-healthcare arena. The company, which is also the nation’s largest non-government employer, is focused on cutting costs and ensuring access to high-quality providers to workers as it pilots a number of new employer-based health initiatives in several states. Employees now have five new programs to take advantage of in their 2020 health plan including a list of featured providers, expanded telehealth services, a personal healthcare assistant, a national quality resource that rates providers, as well as discounts to fitness clubs.

With accessibility, lower costs, and quality of patient care key factors in a patient-centered healthcare model, Walmart is working hard to transform healthcare at the employer benefits level. Could other employers begin to fall in line to compete with Walmart’s employer-based benefits? Time will certainly tell.

Rolling Back Costs on the Consumer Side, Too

In addition to the employer-benefits side, Walmart is ahead of the curve in the consumer healthcare market, too. We witnessed the cost-reduction power of the retail giant several years back when the company rolled out $4 prescriptions (no insurance necessary) at their pharmacies, which had a significant impact on many un- and under-insured customers. Where Walmart differs from Amazon now is in its introduction of routine healthcare services to the general public, targeting those individuals who crave convenience as well as those with subpar insurance coverage, or no coverage at all.

Walmart touted its goal of becoming “America’s Neighborhood Health Destination” in 2019 and is poised to take the primary care sector by storm by offering a full menu of healthcare services at its first Walmart Health Center, which opened in 2019 in Dallas, Georgia. Individuals at this location can now shop for groceries and pop in for a comprehensive $30 check-up. Or perhaps it’s time for a routine dental cleaning. They’ve got that too. Need a mental health check? That will be $1 per minute for your mental health consult, without health insurance. Considering that the average cost of a visit to the primary care doctor costs about $160 for a new patient without insurance coverage, Walmart’s model may give consumers greater access to quality care at a lower cost. And, isn’t that the point?

Our Take: On the consumer side, Walmart’s model of convenient and quality healthcare delivery could have a major impact on the industry as they roll out their retail model to more stores across the country. The company is certainly a model for its employee benefits and its focus on lowering costs while providing access to the highest quality providers to its employees. Walmart’s healthcare strategy is one to watch closely.

And, while Amazon Care is currently being tested with the company’s employees, it’s no surprise that Amazon is also keeping a close eye on the vast potential of the consumer healthcare market. We believe that Amazon, long known for breaking barriers and innovation, will not be shying away from changing the way millions of Americans access healthcare in the future – with accessibility and cost savings being key factors in their strategy.