Walmart first hinted at its push into health care when it opened a new type of primary care clinic in Dallas, Georgia last year. But now, even after the departure of the executive who spearheaded the model, the company is preparing to push the gas pedal on the construction of these new health centers.
Walmart will open seven more locations in Georgia this year, and seven in Jacksonville, Florida next year, according to a blog post by Lori Flees, the new senior vice president of health and wellness for Walmart U.S.
The health centers go step further than most retailers’ forays into health care. They feature a swath of preventive services, including primary care, urgent care, labs, x-rays, counseling, dental, optical and hearing services.
The model is oriented around cash-pay patients and prices are low. For instance, a primary care visit costs $40 for adults and $20 for kids. Counseling is billed at $1 per minute.
Walmart is also hiring its own clinicians, rather than leasing space to an outside firm. So far, that process is going well, the company said.
“We are getting great feedback from providers that they like the integrated care model and the fact that we handle the administrative tasks so they can focus on practicing,” a company spokesperson wrote in an email.
Sean Slovenski, Walmart’s former SVP of health and wellness, helped create this model. He left Walmart in August to join testing startup BioIQ.
Slovenski said the plan was to open 14 clinics this year, and 30 to 50 next year. Since the company is using prefabricated modular design, Walmart should be able to roll them out quickly and at an efficient cost.
“That’s going to take the better part of this coming year to get all this in place for scale. Then they’ll start cranking them out after that,” he said in a recent phone interview.
So far, Walmart appears to be on pace for that goal. By the end of the year, the company confirmed it will have a total of 15 health centers.
Walmart did not divulge how many clinics it plans to open next year. But seven in Jacksonville would be a good head start, and Walmart is also starting to scout out locations in Orlando and Tampa, Flees wrote in her blog post.
She also shared more details about Walmart’s construction partner, BLOX, an Alabama-based firm that specializes in medical modular design. The health center that opened earlier this month in Newnan, Georgia, was the first to be built using BLOX.
From a patient perspective, the model appears to be working as intended. Walmart’s health centers continue to see an increase in visits, with more than half of its appointments booked by returning patients, Flees wrote. And roughly half of its visits are for primary care, while the rest are for specialty care, such as dental or behavioral health.
In the long term, she expects to see more visits shift toward helping patients manage chronic conditions.
“Our longest-standing Walmart Health locations are seeing the largest shifts towards chronic care management and continuity of care, as the patient population responds to the quality and convenient care offered at Walmart Health,” she wrote. “Our goal is to help patients proactively manage their health through preventive care, and we’re pleased with the response so far.”