Walmart launches research institute aimed at more diverse clinical trial participation

Retail giant Walmart is launching a new healthcare research organization with the goal of driving higher-quality, more equitable healthcare.

The Walmart Healthcare Research Institute will initially focus on driving greater equity in clinical trials for drugs that treat chronic conditions. Older adults, women, minorities and rural populations are often underrepresented in such trials, though chronic illnesses commonly impact all of these populations. Data from the Food and Drug Administration show that in 2020, 75% of trial participants were white while 11% were Hispanic, 8% were Black and 6% were Asian, Walmart noted in its announcement.

Walmart said it is working with a range of partners including clinical research organizations, drugmakers and academic medical centers. The company said that because its reach is significant—90% of Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart store—it can use its community ties to meet more diverse potential trial populations where they are.

“At Walmart, we want to help ensure all our customers have access to high quality, affordable and convenient healthcare resources, including innovative research,” said John Wigneswaran, M.D., Walmart’s chief medical officer, in the release.

“We know our customers are interested in participating in healthcare research, but many have not had access until now," Wigneswaran added. "We are already making an impact for our customers and for medical research, by raising patient trust and engagement in their care.”

To make the process simple, patients can connect to Walmart's MyHealthJourney app, which enables them to track their own health data and insurance information in one place. Walmart said the app will notify users of care services and research opportunities they can use to better manage their own health.

Walmart said it sees the research institute as an extension of its broader focus on healthcare access and affordability. The company has also launched a low-cost private label insulin, developed a $4 generic medication program and offers multiple services at cash-pay prices at its growing footprint of clinics.

“The efforts by Walmart in research are innovative and impactful—it is clear that the intention behind their foray into this space is to genuinely make a difference for patients of all ages, race and gender in their ability to access research,” said Bill Hawkins, chairman of the board at Duke University Health, in a statement. “This initiative will support individual patient health as well as the health of numerous communities home to Walmart stores.”