Tags: Wal-Mart | healthcare | doctor | chronic

Welcome to Wal-Mart, the Doctor Will See You Now

Tuesday, 12 Aug 2014 08:12 AM


By Megan McArdle

As its retail business matures into slower growth, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. wants to disrupt another mass market: healthcare.

The company is piloting what it hopes will be a broad network of primary care clinics. The company already has urgent care clinics in about 100 stores, but the new facilities will provide much broader services, such as chronic disease management, that are normally provided at a doctor's office. And it is doing so at an admirably low cost: A doctor's visit at one of its primary care clinics costs just $40, in cash — the only insurance they take is their corporate health plan and Medicare.

Editor's Note: 9 Overlooked Free Benefits for People Over 50

This model makes a lot of sense to me. Doctor's offices are, as the Affordable Care Act's designers frequently stressed, remarkably inefficient compared with most of the rest of the economy. There are a lot of efficiencies that can be brought to the market by a big company employing staff physicians and centrally coordinating things such as purchasing and information technology. And what is Wal-Mart very good at? Central coordination of purchasing and IT.

The price of that is that when physicians are staffers, they will probably work hours like staffers, meaning that you may not be able to get an appointment with a particular doctor. Healthcare advice usually stresses that you should find a good primary care physician.

But let's be honest: My primary care physician has no idea who I am when I walk in the door, having last seen me at least a year ago. I mean, maybe she remembers me because I'm extra-tall, but frankly, even that rarely happens. She is assessing my condition by listening to me and reading my medical records, something that could just as easily be done by a completely different doctor.

If you're chronically ill or elderly and a trip to the doctor's office is a regular event, then it's probably useful to have one person coordinating your care who knows you and who will take a consistent approach.

If you're the sort of person who mostly checks in to get your hypertension medication or statin prescription refilled, then having one doctor probably doesn't add much benefit.

On the other hand, increased access may really matter. We're a busy lot, we middle-aged people with chronic health problems. Having clinics conveniently close by, at a low cost and with the ability to schedule an appointment with someone relatively quickly is probably a much bigger deal than finding a top-notch physician we really click with.

That doesn't necessarily mean that Wal-Mart will be the one to deliver this service to the masses. History is littered with corporations that were very, very good at one thing and decided, erroneously, that this would make them very, very good at being in an entirely different industry.

Wal-Mart may find that for any number of reasons — expertise, regulation, internal politics — that it can't crack open the healthcare market as easily as it did retail. But I hope that someone will succeed even if it fails.

Editor's Note: 9 Overlooked Free Benefits for People Over 50

Megan McArdle is a Bloomberg View columnist who writes on economics, business and public policy.

© Copyright 2015 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Around the Web
Join the Newsmax Community
Please review Community Guidelines before posting a comment.
>> Register to share your comments with the community.
>> Login if you are already a member.
blog comments powered by Disqus
Zip Code:
Privacy: We never share your email.
Hot Topics
Follow Newsmax
Like us
on Facebook
Follow us
on Twitter
Add us
on Google Plus
Around the Web
You May Also Like

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Spends Although Growth Is Slowing

Wednesday, 28 Jan 2015 17:53 PM

Facebook Inc. reported slowing revenue growth in the fourth quarter, as Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg delivere . . .

Stocks Fall After Federal Reserve Statement, Oil-Price Decline

Wednesday, 28 Jan 2015 16:56 PM

Stocks fell on Wednesday, driven by a sharp decline in the S P 500 energy sector, after the Federal Reserve said the dom . . .

Peter Orszag: Medicare's Power to Ensure Affordable Healthcare

Wednesday, 28 Jan 2015 14:14 PM

The Department of Health and Human Services' action to set a timetable for moving Medicare away from fee-for-service pay . . .

Most Commented
Top Stories

Newsmax, Moneynews, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, NewsmaxWorld, NewsmaxHealth, are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

America's News Page
©  Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved