Classes realized from Walmart Well being (that gained’t shock you)

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Retail giant Walmart recently shocked the health-care world with the bombshell announcement it will be closing all 51 Walmart Health Clinics. The company’s telehealth operation that formed three years ago after acquiring the telehealth platform, MeMD, will also be shutting down.

So, what happened? This news came approximately one month after Walmart planned to add four more health clinic locations in Texas. Their official announcement noted that the decision was based on the company’s inability to generate a profit, which made operating Walmart Health unsustainable. This will directly affect dental practitioners as these clinics provide various dental services.

Why the retreat? 

We know these clinics are closing due to financial reasons, but what exactly caused one of the world’s largest retailers to scale back their primary care services? Several possibilities come to mind: 

  1. Walmart Well being was run by an MD, which implies they could have understood scientific care however lacked the expertise required to handle capital expenditures like places of work, tools, laboratories, and many others. As well as, a scientific MD might not have grasped the nuances of dentistry. 

  1. Like many of the healthcare trade, Walmart Well being had hassle hiring and retaining certified workers, each staff and leaders. This may occasionally have negatively impacted scheduling, high quality management, and general buyer expertise. It’s additionally potential that among the higher-ups who touted the concept of including well being care companies weren’t round to execute their high-priced technique.  

  1. Walmart wasn’t calling the pictures. The retailer is infamous for dictating the phrases of enterprise to its suppliers. On this case, it didn’t have a lot affect over insurance coverage corporations or the algorithm-based system of dental insurance coverage. Somewhat than being fiscal brokers, insurance coverage corporations determine what forms of remedies are paid or denied primarily based on claimant knowledge. This may not characterize Walmart’s purchasers and their demographic. Some carriers routinely deny as much as 60% of claims that exceed a sure greenback threshold. That is often equal to lower than annual premiums. These denials result in delayed remedy or out-of-pocket expenditures for the affected person, which caught many leaders who jumped into well being care with out cautious monetary evaluation off guard. Plus, delayed remedy or getting extra out-of-pocket expenditures for the affected person started working in opposition to their model, which pushes the notion of being a low-cost retailer.  

  1. The retail enterprise is primarily cash-and-cary. Ready for insurance coverage reimbursements didn’t ship the cashflow Walmart was accustomed to.  

  1. A low on a regular basis costs coverage mixed with low insurance coverage reimbursement charges precipitated a double whammy of low revenue margins. 

  1. Walmart’s COVID testing and vaccination program fooled executives into considering that it could be simple to generate revenue from the well being care trade. This included hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 exams and vaccinations that the corporate administered. 

  1. Main care is mostly a loss chief. Extra strong techniques, resembling hospitals and DSOs, use major care to funnel sufferers into specialised remedy and high-priced procedures. Walmart was restricted to offering largely low-cost and low-margin episodic major care companies. 

  1. Walmart telehealth didn’t embrace teledentistry. Like telemedicine, teledentistry saves cash on preliminary visits or episodic care. Nevertheless, this was not sufficiently marketed to Walmart purchasers. When the retailer bought MeMD, it bought an off-the-shelf platform that included pressing care, males’s well being, ladies’s well being and behavioral well being — and psychiatry with no capability to conduct digital dental consultations.  

  1. The retailer’s telehealth enterprise minimize into its impulse shopping for whereas clients had been ready for his or her pharmacy prescriptions. This stays a core a part of Walmart’s revenues, that are inventory-driven and cheaper to workers than different well being companies.  

Others have tried 

Walmart isn’t the one retailer pressured to rethink its aspirations of being a major care supplier, neither is it the primary to come across the sensible administration of well being care. For instance, Walgreens lately introduced that it’s closing 160 of its VillageMD major care clinics. CVS can be pivoting by closing 25 of its Minute Clincs and investing within the enlargement of its Oak Hill Well being Clinics, which focus on an older demographic with senior care.

Earlier this yr, a Congressional committee launched a report about reducing well being care prices via transparency and competitors, as present prices are unsustainable for a lot of Individuals. Even giant conglomerates like Google, Fb/Meta, and Microsoft don’t wish to sort out the rising well being care prices as a share of GNP.  

In sum, many giant corporations have realized what many people already know, which is that major care is tough, however major dental care is even tougher. 

Image courtesy of Walmart


Margaret Scarlett, DMD, is a dentist, futurist, and thought leader for Digital Transformation Partners. Retired from the US Public Health Service, her work centered on analysis of large population-based data sets for the Health Resources and Service Administration, the US Census for the National Health Interview Survey, the CDC for its most accurate surveillance system, and Health and Human Services. Dr. Scarlett continues to work with health systems, large DSOs, and organizations on AI in dentistry to advance digital transformation of dentistry.


Michael Ventriello is widely regarded as the “Dental Product Launch Expert,” and the owner and founder of the PR-forward dental marketing agency, Ventriello Communications. He is also the co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Dental Transformation Partners. Michael is an award-winning copywriter who specializes in developing strategic marketing communications and public relations programs for game-changing dental products, services, and companies. Michael is also a published author and dental industry pundit. He can be contacted at [email protected]. 

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