Walmart Expands Virtual Health Care Benefits, Increasing Access for Associates to Quality Providers Across the Country
By Lisa Woods
We all know it’s not always easy to get in to see a doctor – from the wait to schedule an appointment to the referrals from one doctor to another, to the arrangement of travel that often comes with seeing the right specialist. As the nation’s largest private employer and a major investor in the health and well-being of associates, we are all too familiar with the challenges our associates face and the misalignment between the need for primary care and the supply.
That’s why this week we’re expanding* virtual primary care, building on the traditional telehealth service for occasional sick visits, to allow Walmart associates and their families the option to develop long-standing relationships with quality doctors across the country**. As part of this expansion, virtual care options for digestive health and physical therapy will also be available, including some basic at-home lab work early next year. Most virtual health care benefits are available at no cost to associates and their families ($0 co-pay).
Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, we started laying the foundation for virtual care for simple sick needs such as sore throats and colds, not knowing how much the world, and the health care needs of our associates, were about to change. The pandemic accelerated the need for on-demand access to quality providers, which built upon the solid foundation of our existing virtual care strategy. This also included enhanced mental health benefits our associates and their families can take advantage of at no cost, whether they are enrolled in a Walmart medical plan or not.
In 2019, we knew that similar to national data, about 50% of associates and their family members were not seeing primary care physicians – and a big part of that gap was due to access. We have reimagined what’s possible when it comes to unlocking ways for our associates and their families to receive care when they need it, wherever they call home.
With the goal in mind of continuing to build a better, more comprehensive health care experience, along with reducing unnecessary in-patient and emergency room visits, we launched a virtual primary care pilot to three states in 2020. After seeing success across the board, we expanded this virtual care pilot to 16 states, then again to 21 states in 2023.
Here’s what we saw and learned during the pilot with our associates and their families:
- Approximately 33% were over age 45.
- About 30% were seen for a chronic condition or preventative care.
- Those with diabetes who used the virtual primary care option saw a 24% average reduction in HbA1c levels.
- Patients with hypertension experienced a 14% reduction in blood pressure.
- An 11% reduction in total cost of care.
Owen Tripp, CEO of Included Health, which is our health care partner for the virtual primary care expansion, echoed how our vision of putting primary care at people’s fingertips is improving health outcomes while simultaneously reducing unnecessary costs.
“Over the past three and a half years, Walmart has tested and validated the role of virtual care beyond simple sick needs,” said Owen. “Against national primary care shortages, rural health care deserts, and persistent price growth, Walmart has continued to move health care forward.”
We’re meeting people where they are and removing barriers of time, travel and cost at the same time. At the end of the day, we’re offering affordable, accessible health care for our associates and their families, which ties back to our mission at Walmart: helping people save money so they can live better.