Walmart to pilot new healthcare initiatives

The largest employer in the US will road-test a suite of new health benefits, including access to featured providers.
By: | October 28, 2019

Walmart is aiming to test some new pilot healthcare programmes around the US, to help give employees easier access to healthcare providers and improve worker health and wellness.

The company will pilot a suite of new services across different pockets of the country as part of its 2020 healthcare plan in select markets. Among the programmes being tested are expanded telehealth services, and personal healthcare assistant benefits.

Beginning next year, the largest private employer in the US will offer employees a list of “featured providers” in an effort to help “take the guesswork out of finding highly-rated doctors”, it said.

For this pilot, Walmart will be working with data analytics company Embold Health to identify quality local providers in each of eight specialties: primary care, cardiology, gastroenterology, endocrinology, obstetrics, oncology, orthopedics, and pulmonology.

To generate the data, Embold identifies three aspects of care delivery:

  • Appropriateness: Was the care medically necessary? Has the care been shown to offer benefits based on the latest scientific research?
  • Effectiveness: Was the care delivered following the latest scientific guidelines?
  • Cost: Was the care delivered cost-efficiently?

Embold will apply these measures to its data set and identify physicians who consistently deliver high-quality care.

“One of the challenges employers face in managing their healthcare costs is that healthcare is delivered locally, and change is not scaleable,” Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health, noted earlier this year. “It’s a market-by-market effort. Employers are turning to market-specific solutions to drive meaningful changes in the healthcare delivery system.”

In fact, the healthcare group’s recent annual survey found 51% of US employers said they were going to put in place more virtual care solutions, and also have a more focused strategy on high-cost claims (39%) as their top initiatives for 2020.

In addition, employees located in North and South Carolina states will gain access to virtualised personal healthcare assistants as a go-to source for all their medical needs, from billing questions to understanding diagnoses. The concierge-like benefit will work via a website, phone number, and app.

“Once again, Walmart has taken the mantle of leadership in pursuing a bold and innovative strategy to provide its associates with access to high quality and affordable health coverage,” Jim Klein, president and CEO of the American Benefits Council, said of the initiative.

With a tight labor market, Walmart has been beefing up its benefit offerings over the past few years to remain a competitive player in recruiting and retaining talent. Last year, the employer rolled out an education benefit to help subsidise classes toward degrees in business or supply-chain management, online or on-site at one of three colleges.

The company also rolled out a suite of financial-wellness services, including an on-demand-pay option, to serve as a “safety net for emergencies”.