Walmart, the big box chain store best known for low prices and aggressive supplier relations, has decided to put a new product on it's shelves: a doc in a box.
Update: Well, actually, no, they're not. After publishing this article, Walmart reached out to us. Here's what they said:
We wanted to reach out regarding a story that ran yesterday by Denise Amrich: “Attention shoppers: get your doc-in-a-box at the Clinic at Walmart!” The premise of the story is incorrect and we would like the story to be clarified.
The telemedicine services described in an article published on ZDNet on June 7, 2012 are not Walmart-owned services/clinics. Rather, Telemed Ventures is a third-party that is currently leasing space in two Walmart stores – one of which is under construction. These clinics are not owned or operated by Walmart, and the company has no plans to lease space in additional stores to Telemed Ventures at this time.
It is also important to note that, in our nearly 4,000 stores across the U.S., Walmart leases space to many businesses. These include local banks, nail salons and restaurants like Subway and McDonalds – all aimed at providing our customers with the products and services that lead to a positive, one-stop-shopping experience.
I've gone ahead and removed the original story and I've updated this piece with the notes below.
So, how did we get this story wrong? As it turns out, there was a press release from BCS Global and Telemed, which itself was picked up by a whole lot of media. I referenced it from Healthcare IT News. The release was headlined, "BCS Global and Telemed Ventures Partner to Deliver Cloud-Based Managed Visual Collaboration Services to Walmart’s Retail Clinics."
So, you can see how it might seem like this service was going into Walmart stores all over. The problem, as the letter to us so clearly shows, is that you probably shouldn't issue a press release about sales through a major outlet like Walmart unless that outlet approves the press release. I did a quick search on Google News for "BCS Global Telemed Walmart" and found 33 results, including an article similar to mine in InformationWeek titled "The Doctor Will See You in Walmart".
All in all, an instructive lesson in PR and a bad day for those clinic operators.
However, there is no doubt that quality medical care is still not available for many Americans, the costs are often prohibitive, and many Americans still do not have insurance. If we're going to overcome our healthcare challenges in America -- Affordable Health Care for America Act notwithstanding -- we're going to have to start thinking outside the box, even if this solution isn't necessarily the answer.