In California, Walgreens & Walmart Are Rethinking Retail Health
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the single largest footprint, but also the political leverage and capital to usher in a new era of care delivery. However, in the years prior, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing.
Four years ago, Walmart partnered with eClinicalWorks to provide physicians with electronic health record systems that could interface with their pharmacy and retail outlets. That, however, proved to be largely a failure. It appeared that Walmart, the global kingpin of retailing and distribution, could not convince physicians to make the cultural shift required to integrate health information with retail care. The results are telling. CVS Caremark and Walgreens each continue to command greater than 15 percent of the market share in retail health, while Walmart’s share has held steady at just over 6 percent over the past few years.
Strategic maneuvers in Silicon Valley, however, indicate that Arkansas-based Walmart has embraced a new approach to the intersection between retail, mobile technology, and healthcare. And it’s big.
In early 2011, Walmart acquired tech startup Kosmix for $300 million, and in doing so, established a Mountain View, CA-based headquarters for innovation. Furthermore, it followed this past year with a second acquisition, this time in the patient-focused healthcare space, RightHealth.
The dual acquisitions, combined with an influx of capital investment from the parent company, mean the retail giant is poised to make significant waves in healthcare in the coming months. Armed with the tagline “Social + Mobile + Retail,” Walmart Labs will likely use the next year to lay out new modes for connecting retail care back into the primary care communications loop.
Given that Walmart is a global leader in quantifying retail decisions and automating communication, many have speculated about Walmart’s renewed fight for the healthcare space. This time around, I doubt they will try to convince physicians to use a particular electronic health record system, but rather look to develop a patient-centered platform that integrates consumer preferences and health habits to deliver, store, and transmit targeted information. For example, with the acquisition of Reclip.it, Walmart now has the ability to leverage advanced personalization technology and the startup’s big data expertise to develop a more targeted shopping experience.
As Walmart’s healthcare offerings expand, the record of services delivered (from eyeglass prescriptions to well visits and blood pressure measurements) can also be stored and analyzed in a single mobile interface that the consumer (patient) controls.
Connecting this information back to the primary care provider via the patient eliminates many cultural and technological barriers that torpedoed Walmart’s initial attempt at health record integration, while at the same time opening many doors for improving patients’ health and expanding on the scope of their services.
So, with Walgreens unleashing the Apple Store of retail pharmacies and Walmart building an innovation headquarters in the heart of digital health territory, expect this new legislation to usher in a new definition of what it means to “make a stop at the pharmacy.”