Walmart primary care creates stiff competition for providers

Healthcare providers may have a new, unexpected competitor: Walmart.

The retail giant already opened several primary care clinics in South Carolina and Texas, with an additional six staffed by nurse practitioners to open by next January, Forbes reports.

The company contracts with QuadMed, a Wisconsin-based company specializing in selling clinics to companies seeking to provide direct care to employees rather than health insurance, according to MedicalDaily. The company already operates more than 100 retail clinics nationwide, but these new clinics could provide much more direct competition, according to Forbes.

While the retail clinics generally operate via leases with area hospitals, Walmart owns and operates the new clinics. Unlike other primary care providers, they will be open 12 hours a day on weekdays and at least eight hours a day on weekends, Forbes reports. Moreover, Walmart is able to provide care at much lower rates, with the new clinics charging patients only $40, and employees covered under the company health plan only $4. Moreover, they accept Medicare and, in some locations, Medicaid, according to Fortune.  

The company's move signals yet another shift in healthcare delivery that create more competition for traditional providers like doctors and hospitals. Public and private health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act mean patients have more control over their own healthcare than ever before, Rob Lazerow, a practice manager with the Health Care Advisory Board, told Forbes.

"This is a very different competitive landscape than what most executives have faced previously--and hospitals risk losing volumes at each decision point," Lazerow said.

A study last year found many patients visit retail clinics for the very advantages the Walmart clinics offer, with 74 percent saying they visited a clinic rather than a pediatrician either because of the more convenient hours, lack of appointment availability with the pediatrician, not wanting to bother the pediatrician, or the problem's perceived lack of seriousness, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the Forbes article
- read the MedicalDaily article
- check out the Fortune article
- read the Healthcare Finance News article