Attention shoppers: get your doc-in-a-box at the Clinic at Walmart!

Attention shoppers: get your doc-in-a-box at the Clinic at Walmart!

Summary: Rather than seeing a doctor in person, Walmart shoppers may soon speak to a remote doctor through telepresence devices located in the Smart Care Doc locations.

TOPICS: Health

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.

Topic: Health


Denise Amrich is a Registered Nurse, the health care advisor for the U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute, and a mentor for the Virtual Campus at Florida's Brevard Community College.

Nothing in this article is meant to be a substitute for medical advice, and shouldn't be considered as such. If you are in need of medical help, please see your doctor.

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  • Interesting concept

    Naturally there will be some challenges (like with any online "meeting") for all parties to get to the right level of context for often complex medical issues - as it's difficult enough in person. But I think it's an important step in the right direction for two reasons: 1) The possibility of reducing the cost of "seeing" a doctor; 2) It could significantly broaden the level of expertise available to patients (doctors located anywhere vs. just those in the patient's local area).
  • the way of the future

    I think this approach is absolutely necessary to reduce our cost of healthcare. A patient's blood pressure and temperature can already be sent remotely over a smart phone. In the future I see a small modular unit in the home that will send vitals, temperature, blood pressure, blood oxygen level etc. etc. If the patient is being monitored for heart condition they could where the monitor and have the unit adapted to send real-time EKG to the remote location.

    I think the use of nurse practitioners and RNs must play a greater role in future health-care. They can do the follow-up home visits to ensure that the patient is taking their medicines properly etc.

    This is definitely the way the future.
  • advice? or treatment...

    Yes, this raises all sorts of interesting questions, and here's one: Professional licenses are for a given state. Are the docs going to be in-state relative to the location of the patient? What are the legal implications of using technology to access a patient outside of the area of one's license? Other health service professionals are also dealing with this question, of course - most notably psychotherapists.

    Another question: what is the product being sold? advice or treatment? I'm thinking that licensing may be an issue more with the latter than the former. Any thoughts?
  • In India the total yearly salary

    for most of the masses is about $5, so a $1 doctor visit is pretty debilitating. Has anyone wondered how much we could do if we outlawed lawsuits for medical malpractice? Instead, you could send your Doctor back to training where he would have to be certified again. In return, the health care system would fix your problem if it could. In return, cheap medicine without courts and lawyers.
    Tony Burzio