Having jumped feet first into the in-store rapid clinic/minute clinic concept, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) is introducing telemedicine services in selected Wal-Mart stores. This may put the company just steps away from an interest in providing appropriate diagnostic tests to customers coming into its in-store medical clinics.
This summer, Wal-Mart announced a joint operating agreement with two companies for the purpose of running telemedicine clinics in selected stores. This pilot project is taking place in Houston, Texas. Collaborating are My Healthy Access, Inc. (OTC:MYHA) and NuPhysicia, LLC . Both companies are based in Houston, Texas. Since August, the partners have opened telemedicine clinics in several Wal-Mart Supercenter stores. The service is marketed as “Walk-In Telemedicine Health Care.” It connects patients with physicians via a telemedicine arrangement. In response to the physician’s directions, medical professionals with the patient at the clinic site provide the appropriate care.
The first telemedicine location was a Wal-Mart store in Pearland, Texas, which opened with two other telemedicine clinics during August. “Changing to a Telemedicine based health care delivery system allows us to substantially decrease the overhead per patient, while simultaneously increasing the level of care each patient receives,” said Kathleen Delaney, President of My Healthy Access, Inc. This telemedicine arrangement allows one physician to provide care to multiple clinic sites. This addresses one criticism of the rapid clinic/minute clinic concept, which was the limited range of services offered to customers. These clinics, located in retail locations, are generally staffed with a nurse practitioner, who is only allowed to diagnose and treat a limited number of clinical conditions.
Over the past year, Wal-Mart has also been shifting its strategy for developing in-store, rapid clinics. It has decided to partner with regional hospitals, health systems, and physicians. Local hospitals and health systems like this approach, because it gives them access to patients. Dark Daily observes that this type of arrangement shows the rapid acceptance of the medical clinic located in a retail store. Healthcare providers are recognizing that, in order to reach more customers, they will need to offer services in non-traditional settings where today’s customers spend their time (and money).
Dark Daily further predicts that, as Wal-Mart gains more understanding about the opportunities to provide medical services in their retail stores, laboratory testing is likely to come on the radar screen. After all, with the growing number of point of care tests (POCT) and rapid tests, this diagnostic service would increase the customer-friendly and fast service offered by these in-store medical clinics. Should Wal-Mart decide that the telemedicine concept is a clinical and financial winner, then one logical path to expanding the clinical services of the retail store rapid clinic is to offer selected laboratory tests on site.