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Retail and Health, or the $3.8 trillion market

Guillaume RIO
7 minutes

Covid-19 has harmed many health systems, especially in the US. According to Mario Schlosser, CEO of the New York-based start-up Oscar Health, which has embarked on health insurance: The biggest problem in the American healthcare system is twofold: on the one hand, it is too expensive;on the other hand, it is still too complicated… What I’m looking for is an individualized health care and insurance system where you can pay a certain amount— almost a subscription for your health”.

In the US, where the US government does not provide health benefits to citizens, and where 38 million Americans are without insurance, pharmacy chains, supermarkets, large retail stores and independent pharmacies across the country are expanding their in-store health services to offer a range of products that compete with hospitals or medical offices.

Overview of the actors involved

Walmart Health

With this in mind, Walmart enjoys a considerable advantage by already having a physical footprint of more than five thousand stores in the United States that can support the installation of a clinic.

As a reminder, Walmart reaches 140 million buyers each week, or four out of ten Americans. Currently Walmart offers the vaccine in a thousand pharmacies spread over twenty-two states of the country and thus one store in five of its network; knowing that each supermarket vaccine daily up to 85 people. People vaccinated at the American giant will have the opportunity to obtain a health passport, which will accelerate the adoption of digital vaccination identification information.

Source : retailtouchpoints

Walmart is working on this topic with Health Pass developed by Clear, a security company that uses biometric technology to confirm identity of people in airports, and CommonPass, developed by the Commons Project Foundation. Meanwhile, JetBlue and Lufthansa are already using the CommonPass app to check the negative results of viral tests before they can board certain flights.

The retail giant thus becomes the first large-scale vaccine administrator who is committed to giving people a safe and verifiable record of their vaccinations!

The brand has also agreed with DroneUp to ensure, since September, the delivery of Covid-19 screening kits at home in the Las Vegas area by drone. The service is free and can be arranged within a 1.6 kilometer radius around the local store and the time of delivery of the kit is indicated by SMS.

If in September 2019 the American brand opened its very first clinic in Dallas called Walmart Health, it now has about twenty in all the American territory and plans to deploy more than 4000 by 2027.

These health centres offer a wide range of medical services carried out by professionals: basic medical consultations, analyses, X-rays and electrocardiogram, optics and hearing center, advice, nursing care, etc.

Source : Walmart

While physical presence is important and a strength for the American giant, Walmart is preparing to provide online health care (telemedicine) in more than a dozen states. In order to achieve its purposes Walmart intends to purchase the MeMD telehealth company.


Source : MeMD

One of Walmart’s goals is to become a major player in health issues. This approach is all the more legitimate in a country where health and social insurance coverage are far from being widespread, and where 35 million Americans are not insured.

On this point, in October 2020, Walmart launched Walmart Insurance Services, a licensed insurance brokerage. According to David Sullivan, Managing Director of Walmart Insurance Services: “We want customers to feel confident in choosing a Medicare plan that best suits their needs, budget and lifestyle, and we want to be a trusted partner in their healthcare journey. Helping customers choose the right Medicare insurance plan to meet their needs is consistent with Walmart’s mission to help people save money and live better.”

For uninsured individuals who are members of Walmart+ (equivalent to Amazon Prime), since June 2021, they can now access certain drugs free of charge and thousands of others with discounts of up to 85%. Thanks to this program, called “Walmart+ Rx for less”, members can use the discount instead of medicare in over 4,000 Walmart pharmacies.

Patients can also book an appointment and see prices on the Walmart Health website. This site indicates that clinics offer “quality medical care at low prices, without the obligation to be insured”.

In parallel and in the same vein, Walgreens used the Nuance Artificial Intelligence-led Digital Assistant to extend Covid-19 appointment scheduling to consumers beyond the distribution giant’s web portal.

Source : BestBuy

Best Buy Health has even teamed up with Apple to launch a “lively app” that allows you to always be connected to Best Buy health services.

In October 2020, Walmart partnered with insurer Medicare Advantage Clover Health for its first health insurance plans, which will be available to 500,000 people in eight counties across Georgia. According to Sean Slovenski, Senior Vice President of the Health and Wellness Division at Walmart US: “We see these facilities as a jewel of what we want to accomplish in the physical world, at home, and in the virtual world as well”.According to him, the group could reduce the price of laboratory tests and dental cleaning by 30 to 50% by simply eliminating intermediaries.

As previously mentioned, Walmart enjoys a popular aura and trust that starts from a considerable advantage by already having a footprint of more than 5,000 stores in the United States that can support the installation of a clinic. Walmart is proud that 90% of Americans live within 15 km of a Walmart store.


Kroger Health

The other American distribution giant Kroger offers one million vaccinations a week thanks to its entity Kroger Health which has more than two hundred and twenty clinics.

Source : Kroger / Grauss

Since mid-March, the American giant wants to market a connected Covid-19 antigenic test designed by Cellex, a bioassay specialist and Gauss, a small Californian startup specialized in obstetric and surgical safety devices by computer vision. The kit has just been submitted to the Food and Drug Administration for marketing authorization.

Still on the health axis but this time on the prevention side, Kroger has launched a program so that every consumer can have personalized dietary recommendations with the help of a nutritionist from Kroger Health. The objective is to take into account the pathologies or allergies of consumers in order to guide them in their choices at the point of sale. The program also includes the use of Kroger’s OptUP mobile app, Rating the store’s food products based on their nutritional value and allowing users to track their progress in improving their diet over time.

Source : Kroger / Grauss

At the same time, the goal for the digital giants will be to develop a series of ever more precise sensors through their smart watch (Fitbit, Apple Watch), to track the presence of certain molecules in the blood, and thus, for example, ensure that a user follows the prescribed medical treatment.

This process could be taken up by retailers already heavily involved in health.

At a lower level, Gatorade has launched a Gx Sweat patch to measure the level of sweat in order to adapt its water intakes during the effort and after. The single-use patch sticks to the forearm and increases sweat and sodium levels. By scanning the code present on the patch, the Gx application displays the user’s “sweating profile” as well as recommendations to improve its performance by adopting better habits in terms of hydration.

The data collected by the Gatorade app will also be stored in the Garmin Connect and Apple HealthKit databases.

Source : Gatorade

Animals are also entitled to their health managed by the IOT via Purina “food” entity for animals of Nestlé which created the first connected bowl. This last analysis in real time and in line with the latest recommendations of the veterinarian, the proper monitoring of the diet of your favorite animal.

Source : Nestlé




The democratization of health objects is just beginning, as is the multitude of DNA tests, whether to optimize our daily lives, diagnose a genetic predisposition on a pathology or to promulgate the ideal diet. All this is moving towards private groups taking over. The giants of American retail just like Amazon confirm their presence in the so-called “4P” medicine sector: predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory. In a country where social coverage is very low, the Amazon Prime offer or that of Walmart or Kroger will be increasingly successful in the years to come.

Guillaume RIO
Specialist of BATX & GAFA ecosystems and passionate about China, Guillaume analyzes the impact of new technologies on our lives.
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