Walmart to launch pilots to improve employee healthcare access

Walmart wants to make healthcare cheaper and simpler for its associates and their families and is changing up its 2020 medical plan to offer new pilot programs in select markets.

Specifically, the company wants to give its associates and their families––which top 1 million––better access to the best providers. One such pilot program is called Featured Providers, focused on connecting patients with local, high-quality doctors across markets in Northwest Arkansas, Orlando/Tampa and Dallas/Fort Worth. Walmart is partnering with Embold Health, a company that synthesizes public and private health insurance data to rate individual physicians, on the program.

“Rather than relying on word of mouth or social media to find a provider, patients can get information based on actual data and proven results,” the announcement reads. “This data will help take the guesswork out of finding an affordable, quality local provider in eight specialties: primary care, cardiology, gastroenterology, endocrinology, obstetrics, oncology, orthopedics and pulmonology.”

Walmart will also test a Personal Healthcare Assistant, a type of concierge service, to help with health needs like medical bills and appointments, as well as finding a provider and more complex questions.

The retailer and world’s biggest employer is further expanding telehealth offerings in Colorado, Minnesota and Wisconsin, including for preventive health, chronic care management, urgent care and behavioral health. The video visits with doctors, which can be conducted at home, cost $4 and can be booked with physicians within one hour. Behavioral health visits can be booked within one week.

The new announcement from Walmart comes just a little more than a week after it launched new education benefits programs to employees, enabling them to apply and enroll in healthcare job programs for just $1 a day. The offering includes options for seven bachelor’s degrees and two career diplomas in health-related fields, through partnerships with educational institutions.

The company’s Center for Excellence healthcare program has already put a focus on getting better healthcare to its associate, including connecting its employees with top specialists for certain medical conditions and procedures. According to Walmart, this program prevented unnecessary spine surgeries for some who were able to find alternative treatment plans for their conditions.

The company also hopes its new initiatives will carry on past its own workforce and have a greater influence on the broader healthcare market.

“If we get this right, we can raise the tide for all healthcare,” Lisa Woods, Walmart’s senior director of U.S. benefits, said in a statement.