Drug Store News, one of the leading publications in the retail pharmacy industry, recently dedicated its cover story in the February 2016 edition to the retail health fair phenomenon currently underway in America. Engaging individuals around their health in locations they visit with great frequency – such as grocery stores and retail pharmacies – may be one of the simplest forms to drive large-scale, individualized public awareness around such key health issues as flu prevention and early diabetes detection. These events could represent an access point for health education and preventative health services for millions of individuals who currently don’t engage with the healthcare system, whether it is for lack of insurance, lack of time or simply lack of knowledge on where to start.
So does this trend prove that broad access to immunizations and free basic health screenings can play a key role in our country’s public health infrastructure? It may be too soon to tell, but with over 140 million weekly customer visits, no organization is better positioned to have a major impact in this space than Walmart. On October 10, 2015, during its inaugural national “America’s Biggest Health Fair” which was executed simultaneously across all of its more than 4,500 stores in the U.S, the company delivered over 280,000 free health screenings, 51,000 immunizations and distributed over 1.9 million healthy product samples.
In addition to performing the role of a “public health early warning system,” health fairs at retail could also function as a starting point in a Healthcare Consumer’s personal journey towards better health by arming him or her with solutions that deepen their knowledge around a specific health issue and facilitate simple actions and incremental steps towards improvement.
Payers have also shown great interest in collaborating with retailers to engage their members in a positive and simple way in an area of their lives with which most struggle. An example of a fruitful collaboration is the Humana Vitality initiative in which a large national health insurer offers discounts on healthy foods to eligible members. The program has been running in partnership with Walmart for over three years and Humana has seen significant improvement in the engagement and health of participating members. The number of employees who had markedly better health increased by more than 24% over the three years compared to 14% of employees who remained disconnected from the program, and unengaged employees had 56% more emergency room visits and 37% more hospital visits than their healthier peers.
Do these examples point to a new delivery model and/or distribution channel for preventative care? Perhaps, but in order to fulfill their potential, retailers will need to foster the type of partnerships and build the type of eco-systems that are able to harness frequent Healthcare Consumer touch points and leverage state of the art education and engagement techniques as well as advances in science and technology to create new innovative and integrated product and service offerings to help Healthcare Consumers make a lasting, meaningful difference in their lives.
Alex leads New Product Development and Payer Innovation for Walmart's U.S. Health & Wellness business. His team focuses on delivering payer solutions that drive down the cost of healthcare by leveraging Walmart's broad assortment of health & wellness products and services. Alex holds a BA in Global Business from the University of Florida and MBA from the Kellogg School of Management & Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He is a Fulbright Scholar and fluent in five languages.