Walmart is moving swiftly to gain a greater share of the healthcare business by acquiring telehealth provider MeMD. It plans to offer nationwide virtual healthcare services to further advance its ambition to be a market leader in this sector.
Walmart has already 20 clinics staffed with doctors and dentists that offer ‘for fee’ dental, x-rays, and office visits. In its 4700 domestic stores, there are pharmacies that also have been effectively dispensing prescriptions at very affordable prices.
The telehealth service is a very competitive new feature in the industry. Amazon already has Amazon Care; it launched this service in Washington state and serves corporate customers. It will be expanded this summer to an estimated one million customers. In addition, according to the Wall Street Journal, Walgreen Boots Alliance and CVS Health Corp.
As a result of all the interest by various companies and the entry of Walmart and Amazon into the fray, I can imagine a very aggressive pricing policy will emerge and which would, I believe, reduce health care costs.
MeMD has 5 million members nationwide right now. It provides members with 24/365 access to highly qualified, licensed healthcare providers by phone, mobile app, or computer to experience immediate care and enjoy lasting benefits. The company lists current care, men’s health, women’s health, talk therapy, teen therapy, and psychiatry as available services. The company has 16 years of experience.
It is also important to keep in mind how Medicare and Medicaid are addressing this new form of health care. CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) recently established new categories for services that will be temporarily available through telehealth. CMS will reimburse an expanded list of select category 3 services under telehealth through the end of the calendar year that COVID-19 ends. The codes include psychological and neuropsychological evaluation and testing. This action shows that CMS recognizes telehealth services as a viable alternative to in-person appointments with medical professionals (all the more during the pandemic). However, there are some limitations. Telehealth services were originally limited to patients residing in rural areas. Still today, Telehealth services are limited to established patients; new patients must have at least one in-person visit with a provider before being eligible for telehealth service.
Clearly, this new form of medical treatment is gaining ground; use during the pandemic no doubt accelerated adoption of the service. I think its use will be a lasting new habit. That makes the competitive activity going on with major retailers more significant – they are reshaping the industry and reshaping their competitive dominance at the same time.
Walmart will offer MeMD services nationwide. That will be an important move to capture enrollment among member companies and to compete with other telehealth providers. It shows the alertness of Walmart and the stance it will take against Amazon. We are now seeing these two giants face off in another category in their battle to be leader across the marketplace. As the two goliaths fight it out, I think price wars will erupt in the future and the consumer will benefit.