With the healthcare industry representing $3.6 trillion in annual revenues, it was only a matter of time before mega retailers found a way to enter and revolutionize the healthcare industry. That’s exactly what’s happening as global giants, Walmart, Amazon, and Apple powerfully break into the health and wellness market with not just innovative solutions to expand patients’ access to telehealth services, but for a fraction of the cost.
In January 2020, Walmart announced the expansion of its employee telehealth program, which provides virtual appointments for just $4. By June 2020, Walmart had opened its third health clinic in Georgia, serving to rapidly increase access to healthcare to hundreds of thousands of rural residents. And in July 2020, Walmart announced the start of Walmart Insurance Services, LLC, which plans to provide low-cost health insurance options to patients.
As Walmart continues to evolve its telehealth offerings, including partnering with Verizon to place 5G wireless service in select locations to improve digital health services, expect the mega big-box retailer to carve out an even bigger market share in the healthcare industry.
The amount of new telehealth providers has exploded since the COVID-19 pandemic began in the United States in February 2020. As parent company Walmart begins to dominate the low-cost health care space, its subsidiary, Sam’s Club is following suit with the rollout of their own telehealth service through text-based app, 98point6. For as little as $1 per telehealth appointment, Sam’s Club members can purchase a $20 quarterly subscription for the first three months and continue their telehealth access at a very affordable quarterly rate of just $33.50 per member.
However, the benefits of Sam’s Club’s telehealth plan stretch far beyond the cost. Members can have 24/7 access to board-certified physicians and opt-in for pediatric care. In addition, physicians are able to diagnose and treat 400 conditions, including cold and flu-like symptoms, allergies, as well as monitor chronic conditions that result from diabetes, depression, and anxiety. Members, through the app, can also get prescriptions and request lab orders.
Apple & Amazon
Major big-box retailers aren’t the only ones entering the healthcare space. Global technology and e-commerce giants, Apple and Amazon have their sights set on disrupting the traditional healthcare market. Apple has recently announced a partnership with Veterans Affairs (VA) to offer telehealth services to veterans seeking care. To achieve this, Apple has committed to donating 50,000 cellular-enabled iPads to veterans to ensure they have the technical means to attend telehealth appointments.
Amazon seems to have even bigger plans, with their joint healthcare venture with JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway. With the newly acquired online pharmacy, PillPack, Amazon is on pace to begin offering its own suite of healthcare and prescription medicine services.
The verdict is still out on exactly how these behemoths will reshape healthcare as we know it. However, one thing is true, patients will now have a much larger variety of low-cost, convenient, telehealth options at their fingertips. This is why digital marketing will be key for other healthcare providers to stay ahead of the curve.
With so many options to choose from, patients will naturally gravitate to the large retailers that they have come to trust. However, with a strategic marketing approach, telehealth providers can begin to position themselves now to be top of mind for patients seeking reliable, affordable, and convenient telehealth services.