Walmart’s New Bet: Quick Doctor Visits at Superstore Prices

Imagine going to Walmart to pick up groceries, household items, and – wait for it – a medical checkup? Walmart is currently experimenting with a potentially groundbreaking idea: low-cost, walk-in healthcare clinics that focus on minor medical needs, preventive treatments, and management for chronic illnesses. With a handful of Walmart stores in the South already dabbling in this concept, the company hopes it will eventually expand throughout the nation.

Pioneering a New Healthcare Concept: Walmart Care Clinics

The in-store health centers are simply called “Walmart Care Clinics” and offer $40 walk-ins for the general public. However, if you’re a Walmart employee and part of the company’s healthcare plan, you only need to pay $4 per visit. Such low-cost medical care could pave the way for a more affordable and accessible healthcare system in the United States.

You might have already seen some form of a health clinic at a nearby Walmart. However, until recently, all of the clinics inside those stores have been owned and operated by outside contractors who lease the space. This new experiment is purely Walmart’s own venture.

What Services do Walmart Care Clinics Provide?

Despite being staffed by nurse practitioners rather than medical doctors, these Walmart Care Clinics still manage to offer a range of services similar to those provided by a general practitioner physician’s office. These services include lab work, vaccinations, management for chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes, and even referrals to specialized doctors outside the clinic. As Lynn Bailey, a medical consultant based in Columbia, S.C., told WIS-TV News, “We have a nickname for these things. We call them docs in a box. They’re actually quite good at managing diabetics and hypertension and high cholesterol.”

The first Walmart Care Clinic opened in Copperas Cove, Texas, back in April. Since then, the company has opened a few more locations throughout the Lone Star State with plans to have a dozen operating by the end of 2014. Walmart has also expanded to include some clinics in South Carolina.

Potential Benefits of Walmart Care Clinics

Aside from the sheer convenience of being able to tend to minor medical needs while shopping for everyday items, several potential benefits could arise from this trend of low-cost walk-in healthcare clinics:

1. Affordable healthcare: One of the main perks associated with these Walmart Care Clinics is the affordability. The reality of the American healthcare system is that the cost of medical treatments has continuously risen. By offering low-cost services, Walmart clinics have the potential of addressing the issue of accessibility.

2. Preventive treatments: By focusing on preventive treatments, the clinics have the potential to reduce the emergence of more serious health issues. Timely treatments for minor illnesses and management of chronic conditions can effectively improve public health, overall.

3. Reduced pressure on emergency departments: With more people potentially opting to visit Walmart Care Clinics for minor ailments, emergency rooms across the country might experience a reduction in overcrowded conditions and long waiting times. This could also potentially lead to lower emergency department expenses.

4. Job creation: Providing affordable and accessible healthcare services at a larger scale requires a larger workforce. The opening of more healthcare clinics at Walmart stores could substantially increase job opportunities within the healthcare sector.

Challenges and Concerns

However, there are some concerns regarding the quality of care provided by these Walmart Care Clinics. Due to the fact that they are staffed primarily with nurse practitioners instead of medical doctors, some people might question the level of expertise and medical knowledge, questioning whether they can offer the same quality of service as a doctor would.

Additionally, some might argue that offering healthcare services in non-medical commercial settings might contribute to the commercialization of healthcare. If this model becomes widespread, corporate-driven practices might lead to preference of profit over patient care quality.

A Promising Experiment

It is still too early to tell whether these Walmart Care Clinics will prove to be a trend that catches on or simply a novelty confined to select locations. However, their emergence fuels further discussion on finding ways to make healthcare accessible and affordable for all while providing quality service. Could Walmart’s experiment be an early indication of the future of healthcare in the United States? Only time will tell, and maybe your next visit to Walmart will also include a medical checkup.