Wal-Mart to Open In-Store Health Clinics Nationwide

Blogger Mickey Kaus calls a news item directly impacting multiple blog-topics a “harmonic convergence” of issues. I think it’s fair to consider this news from Wal-Mart a harmonic convergence within the Rhode Island blogosphere…

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., intends to contract with local hospitals and other organizations to open as many as 400 in-store health clinics over the next two to three years, and if current market forces continue, up to 2,000 clinics could be in Wal-Mart stores over the next five to seven years, Wal-Mart president and CEO Lee Scott will say in a speech later today at the World Health Care Congress in Washington, D.C. The clinic program’s expansion is just the latest in a series of moves by Wal-Mart to help implement customer solutions to America’s health care crisis, including the $4 generic drug prescription program, health information technology and participation in a major coalition supporting comprehensive healthcare reform by 2012.
Wal-Mart puts appeals to all kinds of health policy wonks into their press release…
Scott notes that surveys in existing clinics revealed more than half of those who visited a clinic said they were uninsured. Nearly 15 percent of customers said they would have gone to a hospital emergency room for their care — thus increasing the burden on already strained community health care institutions — if they could not have gone to the clinic inside a Wal-Mart.
The providers running the clinics will determine what services to offer, which will generally include preventive and routine care for conditions such as allergies and sinus infections, as well as basic services such as cholesterol screenings and school physicals at affordable prices. They will be staffed by either certified nurse practitioners or physicians.
(Note that this part of the Wal-Mart proposal is different from CVS’s description of its in-store clinic plan, which mentions only nurse practitioners.)
“We also think there is tremendous potential with local hospitals as partners for some or all of these clinics. Patients trust the role hospitals play in providing quality medical care. They have the medical experience and expertise — and the larger network if more serious treatment is needed,” Scott says.
The clinics will post clear prices for services and procedures, helping to bring much-needed price transparency to the American health care system.
Scott highlights Wal-Mart’s work on health information technology, pointing to Wal-Mart’s partnership with other corporations to start Dossia, an independent, non-profit group that will provide safe and secure electronic medical records to their employees and retirees. Wal-Mart recently joined with the University of Arkansas and Blue Cross Blue Shield to create the Center for Innovation in Health Care Logistics, a new research center focused on improving health care delivery through information technology.
Wal-Mart is also working with leaders in business, government, labor and public policy on the “Better Health Care Together” coalition. The goal of the coalition is to assure that affordable, quality health care is accessible to all Americans by 2012
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Michael Morse
16 years ago

“The clinics will post clear prices for services and procedures, helping to bring much-needed price transparency to the American health care system.”
This should be mandatory at all health care facilities. A trip to the emergency room for abdominal pain or similar maladies ends up costing the insurance companies, or taxpayers thousands of dollars, in large part due to fear of medical malpractice lawsuits. Maybe this would foster healthy competition among health care providers. A price tag on these services might also instill a conscience into abusers of the system.

16 years ago

What would foster healthy competition among healtcare providers would be the end of HMOs and PPOs. Give everyone a HSA and let them shop for doctors the same way they shop for insurance.
But the unions would never go for that when they can force employers to pay for health insurance.
I wonder how I can get my employer to pay my homeowners insurance, too…

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