Walmart to acquire telehealth company MeMD as Amazon Care signs first customer

Walmart is going all-in on telehealth, opening a new front to compete with Amazon.

The retail giant announced Thursday that its healthcare division, Walmart Health, plans to acquire multi-specialty telehealth provider MeMD.

Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

The acquisition will enable Walmart to expand its Walmart Health service across the country.

“Telehealth offers a great opportunity to expand access and reach consumers where they are and complements our brick-and-mortar Walmart Health locations. Today people expect omnichannel access to care, and adding telehealth to our Walmart Health care strategies allows us to provide in-person and digital care across our multiple assets and solutions,” said Cheryl Pegus, M.D., executive vice president, Health & Wellness in a statement.

“Our Health & Wellness mission is to focus on the consumer’s seamless experience and improved health. We are excited to welcome MeMD employees to the Walmart family, and we are looking forward to together, accelerating health care access across the country," Pegus said.

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Through the acquisition, Walmart Health plans to provide telehealth services for urgent, behavioral and primary care, the company said.

"This reinforces Walmart’s commitment to integrated, omnichannel health delivery that leverages data and technology to improve engagement, health equity and outcomes," company executives said in a press release.

Walmart, the largest retailer in the world, made a splash more than a year ago as it opened the first of its Walmart Health clinics in Georgia.

Walmart Health has since grown to include plans to open at least 22 such locations in Georgia, Florida, Illinois and Arkansas by the end of 2021. Walmart has also made a push into health insurance by launching a Medicare-focused brokerage and teaming with Clover Health on co-branded Medicare Advantage plans.

Walmart's move into telehealth comes the same week as Amazon signed its first enterprise customer for its Amazon Care virtual health service. Insider's Blake Dodge reported this week that Amazon is working with Precor, a Washington-based fitness equipment company that was acquired by Peloton in early April. 

Amazon will be paid based on how many people are using the virtual care app, a person close to the matter said, Insider reported.

Although the deal is financially small, it represents a milestone for the e-commerce giant's health service as it pushes to expand nationally.

In March, Amazon announced plans to expand its virtual health service benefit to all its U.S. employees this summer while also making it available to other companies. It marked Amazon's first foray into direct patient care on a national scale as it makes strategic moves to gain a foothold in the $3 trillion healthcare market.

The company began piloting the new virtual health service benefit for employees and their families in the Seattle region back in 2019.

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Now Walmart is getting into the telehealth game as well with the acquisition of MeMD.

The telehealth space is attracting big investment dollars and has become increasingly competitive as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated consumer adoption of telehealth. There's also been a flurry of M&A activity, including the merger of Doctor on Demand and Grand Rounds, Cigna's Evernorth acquiring MDLive, and Accolade's acquisition of virtual primary care company PlushCare.

MeMD was founded in 2010 by John Shufeldt, M.D., to provide virtual care nationwide, leveraging the latest online technologies to deliver high-quality care 24/7 in a convenient and accessible manner.

MeMD provides telehealth for medical and mental-health visits to five million members nationwide, according to the company's website.

“We’ve achieved incredible strides in making health care available to individuals and businesses around the country through our easy, affordable and intuitive online platform. We can’t imagine a better partner than Walmart as we are both committed to innovative health care delivery and bringing affordable, high-quality care to as many people as possible,” said MeMD chief executive officer Bill Goodwin in a statement. “MeMD’s mission fits perfectly with Walmart’s dedicated focus to help people save money and live better, and now we can impact millions more by being part of Walmart.”

The acquisition, which is subject to regulatory approval, is expected to close in the coming months.