Walmart Health is opening its latest clinics in Florida. Here's how they fit into its 'omnichannel' vision

Walmart Health will start to open its next slate of clinics beginning today, with five locations planned for Florida.

The retail giant expects to have cut the ribbon on all five sites by the end of the summer, David Carmouche, M.D., senior vice president of omnichannel offerings at Walmart Health, told Fierce Healthcare. The plans cover two clinics in Orlando, two in Jacksonville and one in Tampa. The company is also planning to roll out its new tech stack, born from its partnership with Epic.

Carmouche said the new clinic locations represent an opportunity to bring multiple Walmart assets together, as the retailer offers both in-person services as well as telehealth visits. The Epic team-up will help "tie them together," he said.

"If we take that customer obsession that Walmart has in the retail space but then bring that into a healthcare context, that's really potentially powerful," Carmouche said.

Carmouche said the partnership with Epic allows Walmart to more effectively access the full picture of a patient who comes to one of its clinics or who connects to a telehealth visit through MeMD, the virtual care provider the retail giant acquired a year ago.

Combining the two offerings, he said, allows people access to care when they need it. The health centers, for instance, do have some weekend hours, while the telehealth component offers a more convenient option if the clinics are not open, he said.

"We're committed to having seven-day-a-week access," he said. "And I think the omnichannel, integrated virtual part of that makes that easier to do."

The retailer operates about 20 in-person locations across Georgia, Arkansas, Illinois and now Florida, with locations attached to its supercenter stores. These health centers offer a slew of services at a flat fee, including primary care and dental care as well as labs and imaging.

As many Walmart stores are in underserved areas, the clinics are an opportunity to reach people who may otherwise struggle to get care, Carmouche said. Integrating the virtual component enhances the in-clinic services as well; for example, a patient who may not have broadband access would be able to get a virtual consult with a specialist by visiting one of Walmart's clinics.

Florida, in particular, has a large volume of Walmart stores, making it a natural place for the retailer to look next in determining which markets are a good fit for Walmart Heath centers. As Walmart Health continues to build, it expects to adopt a case-by-case approach depending on the location and its needs, Carmouche said.

While the company plans to continue growing the number of clinics, Carmouche said the company's vision is to "be flexible" and understand when a brick-and-mortar location may not make the most sense; in these cases, the retailer should take a virtual-first approach.

"We don't want to have a one-size-fits-all delivery model," he said. "If all we did was build clinics, that really wouldn't make sense in some communities where we may need a much stronger virtual care presence."

Carmouche joined Walmart late last year, coming to the retailer from an executive role at Louisiana-based Ochsner Health. What lured him away from traditional healthcare was the retailer's unique position in taking on healthcare's challenges.

In many ways, Walmart Health is a startup in the industry, he said, and brings that type of energy and creativity. However, the company is massive and has national scale, so it has the reach to make things happen.

"Walmart has the uniqueness of being a scaled organization that's relatively new in care delivery," Carmouche said. "There are very few opportunities in healthcare to go to a scaled startup."