How Walmart and Amazon's healthcare moves may affect ASCs

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Walmart and Amazon have made big moves in recent years to expand their presence in the healthcare industry.

Walmart opened multiple healthcare clinics in 2020, along with the addition of increased telehealth services and the launching of its own insurance agency. This year, the retail giant continued its healthcare advances by filing paperwork to operate its healthcare business in 37 states.

Amazon has continued to expand its presence in the healthcare industry since launching Amazon Care in 2019. Amazon has also landed multiple partnerships with healthcare companies for use of its cloud services since it launched Amazon Web Services for Health in July. Additionally, the company launched a pharmaceutical discount program for Prime members.

Here are 10 recent moves by Walmart and Amazon:

  1. June 7: Walmart added prescription savings benefits for members of its Walmart+ program. It also filed paperwork to expand its telehealth services in 16 states.
  2. June 14: Amazon opened three health centers in Detroit for its employees through its partnership with Crossover Health.
  3. June 21: Amazon Web Services launched a program to accelerate the growth of healthcare startups by offering resources, expertise and collaboration opportunities.
  4. June 29: Walmart announced its plans to offer a private label version of analog insulin for diabetes patients.
  5. July 7: Amazon Care reportedly connected with several healthcare insurance companies to expand coverage of its services.
  6. July 20: Walmart filed additional paperwork to expand its healthcare services in a total of 37 states.
  7. Aug. 3: Walmart added pharmaceutical veteran John Wigneswaran, MD, as its chief medical officer.
  8. Aug. 4: Medical products company Baxter extended its collaboration with Amazon Web Services to continue to use Amazon's cloud to drive digital transformations in healthcare.
  9. Aug. 9: GE Healthcare moved its artificial intelligence imaging applications and secure intelligence platform to Amazon Web Services.
  10. Aug. 12: Olive entered a strategic partnership with Amazon Web Services to use its cloud computing to improve the exchange of healthcare information on its platform.

Walmart and Amazon's healthcare ventures can have big implications for ASCs because they can affect how patients seek care.

Karen Bewer, BSN, RN, administrator of Pain Physicians of Wisconsin's Milwaukee and Waukesha locations, said consumers may begin to inquire more about the value of care they are receiving at their healthcare setting.

"Just as consumers found that their household goods could be bought at a lower price when they went to Amazon or to Walmart, I hope that savvy healthcare consumers will ask the questions and obtain the answers about the value and convenience an ambulatory surgery center will bring to them," Ms. Bewer said. "Costs less? More convenient parking? I don't have to walk by or co-mingle with so many others seeking urgent or emergency care in a hospital? Ambulatory surgery centers will compare very favorably in these areas."

Alfonso del Granado, administrator of Covenant High Plains Surgery Center in Lubbock, Texas, said Amazon and Walmart have the potential to create useful solutions that can benefit ASCs.

"My wish would be for an independent, portable health electronic record under the patient's control, one that they can take to every point of care and require providers to document within," Mr. del Granado said. "I do not believe healthcare systems will work on this because it would be a conflict of interest to enable patients to seek care elsewhere. I also do not see the government being able to drive this initiative with the current climate of public mistrust. It would take a behemoth organization, such as Amazon or Walmart, to create a market-based solution that I, for one, would be happy to accept if it reduced errors and decreased my labor costs in obtaining a complete and thorough history."

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