Walmart Health moves into the hot telehealth area with MeMD buy

Retail giant Walmart’s health arm, Walmart Health, has agreed to purchase privately held telehealth provider MeMD. MeMD provides telehealth services in primary care, urgent care, women’s/men’s health, and mental health services to both individuals and organizations for their employees. Neither purchase price nor executive leadership transitions were disclosed. The transaction, which requires regulatory approval, is expected to close in the next few months.

The relatively low profile MeMD was founded in 2010 by ER physician and entrepreneur John Shufeldt, MD. The company is headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, and offers national coverage for its five million members.

A big move that indicates a strategic wobbliness? Walmart Health’s strategy has been a roller coaster over the past few years. Aggressively starting out of the gate in 2018 with high-profile exec Sean Slovenski leading and plans to open up 1,000 clinics, they retrenched in 2020 with his departure and slowed down the opening of Walmart Health locations. Virtual visits, which are merchandisable in-store and online, signal a different direction that may be easier to scale than brick-and-mortar locations, and have proven their market. Meanwhile, back at the stores, last month Walmart announced a partnership with Ro to put its trendy Roman men’s sexual health and vitamin product lines into 4,600+ Walmart stores starting 1 May. RetailBrew 

Looming in the background, of course, is CVS with their MinuteClinics, Walgreens with 500 free-standing VillageMD locations [TTA 4 Dec 20], and Amazon rolling out Amazon Care nationally. Walmart’s employees have used Doctor on Demand’s services, with the company dropping the visit cost to $4 during the pandemic. With the Grand Rounds merger [TTA 18 Mar], this may have been another reason for Walmart to bring in-house a telehealth provider. Who may be feeling the most heat from Walmart’s and Amazon’s moves? Teladoc and Amwell. Walmart release, Becker’s Hospital Review, Engadget

Walgreens and VillageMD kickstarting the ‘Go Big’ strategy of over 500 co-located primary care offices

Va-room! Back in July, Walgreens Boots Alliance and VillageMD announced a Really Big Deal that involved 500 to 700 co-located full-service Village Medical primary care offices in more than 30 markets over the next three to five years, along with a billion-dollar investment by Walgreens in VillageMD over the next three years. This week, they announced the opening of the first 40 “Village Medical at Walgreens”, in addition to the 5 pilot offices in Houston, by the end of summer 2021. The first openings will be in Phoenix starting in two weeks, with the remaining flight of offices in Houston, El Paso, and Austin, Texas, plus Orlando, Florida.

The coordination of the Village Medical office with Walgreens pharmacy and in-store services is apparent in the announcement, with much made of coordination among them in influencing patient medication adherence (right dose at the right time), health outcomes, and lowering the cost of care. Many of the clinics will be in traditionally underserved areas with high rates of medical disparities and multiple chronic conditions. In the July announcement, they pledged that over 50 percent would be located in HHS-designated Health Professional Shortage Areas and Medically Underserved Areas/Populations. Release.

For Walgreens Boots, it confirms that they aren’t wavering from their ‘go big or go home’ strategy, clearly targeted to revitalize their retail locations and pharmacy in higher potential markets. Since then, Amazon has opened up Pharmacy in addition to PillPack, CVS is integrating SDOH into pharmacy as a trial, and Walmart Health continues to waver with a limping expansion of 22 clinics in four states. Walgreens picked a very strong partner in VillageMD and Village Medical, which now have more than 2,800 physicians across nine markets, cover approximately 600,000 lives, and manage $4 billion in total medical spend in value-based contracts. They also haven’t slacked in their own efforts. Only last month, they acquired Complete Care Medicine in Phoenix, opening 17 clinics there by summer 2021, along with announcing 10 new offices in Atlanta. VillageMD is also featuring 24/7 telehealth and virtual care in its offices. 

Walgreens Boots goes big with billion-dollar medical office deal with VillageMD

Go big or go home. That seems to be Walgreens Boots Alliance’s’ theme in its 8 July announced deal with and investment in primary care provider VillageMD. They will set up 500 to 700 co-located full-service Village Medical offices in more than 30 markets over the next three to five years. The “Village Medical at Walgreens” offices will be staffed by a projected 3,600 primary care providers and fully integrated with Walgreens pharmacists for one-stop shopping. According to the release:

  • Most of the Village Medical medical offices will be approximately 3,330 square feet each, up to 9,000 square feet, and utilize existing store space. “80% will be used by VillageMD to fund the opening of the clinics and build the partnership.”
  • 24/7 care will be available via telehealth and at-home visits
  • Fees will be covered by insurance or for those without, on a sliding scale
  • Over 50 percent will be located in Health Professional Shortage Areas and Medically Underserved Areas/Populations, as designated by HHS. These would reach underserved “older, sicker, and poorer patients” without regular access to care, said VillageMD CEO Tim Barry in an interview with CNBC
  • Capacity would be 100 to 120 patients per day 

This follows on a pilot of five Village Medical clinics at Walgreens locations in Houston, and Village Medical’s eight-state expansion in the Find Care telehealth program announced in April.

Walgreens Boots Alliance will invest $1 billion in equity and convertible debt in VillageMD over the next three years, including a $250 million equity investment to be completed today which will culminate in about 30 percent ownership.

To this Editor, Walgreens is sitting at a giant poker table, stacking the $1,000 chips, and saying to its rivals, ‘see ya and raise ya’. These are full-service offices, not urgent care clinics, and they are investing in their provider. It could be transformative–or flop on executional niceties such as location, medical competition, or even COVID keeping down physical visits. The competition is also daunting on the retail side. Recently Walgreens has pared back hundreds of locations and faces the deep pockets of CVS-Aetna, which plans to open 1,500 HealthHUBs which integrate stores, MinuteClinics with nurse-practitioners, pharmacies, and health data, Amazon with PillPack aimed at its pharmacy business, and Walmart with its toe in the water with clinics. 

Village Medical, formerly Village Family Health, is a multi-state primary care provider which is part of Chicago-based VillageMD. Both include more than 2,800 physicians across nine markets, so the Walgreens deal will more than double their size. Also Forbes (Photo: Walgreens)