Walmart, Amazon & more: 5 retail giants' virtual care strategies  

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From making telemedicine more consumer friendly to increasing access to care during the pandemic, retail giants including Amazon, Walmart and Walgreens are ramping up their virtual care initiatives and innovating the healthcare delivery system. 

Here are 11 things to know about Walmart, Amazon, Sam's Club, CVS and Walgreens' telehealth expansions over the past year.

Amazon

1. In December, reports began to surface that Amazon wants to expand its Amazon Care program to other large employers. The company launched Amazon Care, which provides telemedicine and in-person primary care services, in September 2019. The program was initially only available to Amazon employees in Seattle but expanded to all Amazon employees in Washington state in September 2020.

2. Amazon Care also grew its business development team in 2020, a possible indication that the company is looking to expand its online medical clinic. In October, Amazon Care posted several job openings for business development managers, a role that is responsible for growing relationships within the commercial and public sectors.

3. Amazon also inked telehealth partnerships with BestBuy and primary care clinic chain Crossover Health in 2020. In July, Amazon and Crossover teamed up to pilot health clinics for employees featuring virtual or in-person visits. The retail giant then partnered with BestBuy in September to launch a telehealth-enabled flip phone for with Amazon Alexa voice assistance to help connect older adults to healthcare services.

Sam's Club

4. Sam's Club inked a partnership with primary care telehealth provider 98point6 in September to offer members $1 telehealth visits. Sam's Club members can now sign up for telehealth visits through 98point6's text-based app; the store offers a $20 quarterly subscription for the first three months and then switches to $33.50 every three months. With the subscription, members get unlimited telehealth visits for $1 per visit.

Walmart

5. In January 2020, Walmart expanded its benefits available through its telehealth program, which offers $4 virtual care visits via Doctor on Demand's platform. The program is available to employees in Colorado, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

6. The Department of Veterans Affairs in July 2020 said it plans to ramp up its telehealth services at Walmart locations across the country after the COVID-19 pandemic winds down.

CVS

7. CVS Health added $59 telehealth visits for customers in Georgia and Massachusetts through the retail giant's MinuteClinics, effective in July. Most Aetna insurance plans cover the cost of the telehealth visits.

8. In January, CVS Health rolled out a new medical alert system, named Symphony, designed to protect seniors living at home. The system uses in-home and wearable sensors to monitor for falls, motion and room temperature and also provides 24/7 personal emergency response when needed. Its voice-activated hub also lets seniors make hands-free calls with caregivers or emergency responders.

Walgreens

9. Walgreens added new telehealth providers and a COVID-19 risk assessment tool to its Find Care platform in April 2020 to coordinate care for patients. The app lets patients connect with more than 30 providers for virtual visits.

10. In July 2020, Walgreens Boots Alliance invested $1 billion in Village MD to add full-service primary care physician offices and telehealth services to hundreds of co-located clinics across the U.S.

11. Walgreens and VillageMD in December said they would open 40 new Village Medical at Walgreens primary care clinics by the end of summer 2021. The retail giant said it plans to open 500 to 700 VillageMD clinics in more than 30 U.S. markets in the next five years.

 

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