Why Walmart is a fierce competitor in healthcare: 4 reasons

Walmart, which advertises itself as the leader in "everyday low prices," is bringing that mentality to the healthcare market, partnering with insurers and tapping industry executives to grow its efforts, CNN Money reports.

The retail giant is the latest company to expand its reach into the healthcare industry. Walmart's best-known play, which launched in 2006, involved selling several dozen generic prescription drugs for $4 each. Since then, health and wellness products have grown to account for 11 percent of the retail behemoth's merchandise sales in recent years, the report states.

"Because of its strategic importance, we've decided to put more focus on our health & wellness business in the near term," Greg Foran, president and CEO of Walmart U.S., said in July, according to the report.

Here are four ways Walmart can compete in the healthcare field, according to CNN Money:

1. One of Walmart's biggest advantages is that it knows the majority of its 140 million weekly customers are senior citizens and lower-income Americans who are likely on Medicare or Medicaid. To cater to its target demographics, the retail giant may look to provide more low-cost health services, including basic primary and medical care, nutrition and weight counseling and chronic disease management services.

2. The company's many brick and mortar locations also serve as an advantage, as the federal government recently allowed insurers to cover healthy grocery items and other such products as a supplemental benefit. Walmart's recent efforts to partner with insurers like Anthem also benefits customers in rural areas, where their local Walmart location often serves as a community center and potential one-stop-shop where people could potentially access medical services, CNN Money reports.

"Consumers of Walmart and other sophisticated retailers will begin to identify them as their trusted healthcare partner and use them for an increasing range of healthcare services," John Matthews, national strategy leader for healthcare and life sciences at KPMG, told the publication.

3. The retailer has already made several attempts to incorporate medical services into its store offerings. Customers can get eye care services at roughly 3,000 instore vision centers and free health screenings at Walmart's 4,700 locations nationwide. Patrons can also obtain hands-on help enrolling in ACA policies, Medicare Advantage plans and prescription drugs plans through the company's partnership with directhealth.com, which provides technology solutions to help customers compare and shop for health insurance plans.

4. Walmart also operates 19 urgent care clinics at its retail locations in Georgia, South Carolina and Texas. Customers can visit the clinics for between $59 and $99 and receive routine and urgent care services, including lab tests and immunizations. However, experts said the effort has been met with mixed success and has not expanded nationwide, the report states.

To access the full report, click here.

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