Walmart said yesterday that it is acquiring MeMD, described as "a multi-specialty telehealth provider," saying that the move will "allow Walmart Health to provide access to virtual care across the nation including Urgent, Behavioral, and Primary care, complementing our in-person Walmart Health centers. Our focus on consumer engagement, improved health outcomes, and early, equitable access remains the cornerstone of quality healthcare that can help lower overall healthcare costs across all populations."
Terms of the deal, which requires regulatory approval, were not disclosed.
"Telehealth offers a great opportunity to expand access and reach consumers where they are and complements our brick-and-mortar Walmart Health locations," Dr. Cheryl Pegus, Walmart's executive vice president of health and wellness, said in a prepared statement.
The Wall Street Journal writes that "the strategy comes in response to Amazon's business model, according to people familiar with the situation. Amazon relies on profits from its cloud computing and advertising businesses to fend off competitors online with fast, but often less-profitable, home delivery of millions of products.
"The MeMD deal opens another front in which Walmart and Amazon will compete, as Amazon recently announced plans to provide its telehealth service, Amazon Care, to its nearly one million U.S. employees by summer. Amazon Care, which now serves company workers in Washington state, will also be offered to other employers.
"Just as Amazon leveraged its own data centers to create a new business selling cloud computing to customers as Amazon Web Services, both Amazon and Walmart are taking what they learn paying for the healthcare of their giant workforces to offer expansive healthcare services to their customers, helping them move into the huge and growing U.S. healthcare market."
- KC's View:
Just another shot in what appears to be an ongoing escalation in the health care business, with a lot of players - not just Amazon and Walmart, but also CVS Walgreen and Rite Aid - all taking up varying but essentially competing positions on the battlefield.
So much of this is about connecting with the consumer in fundamental and even intimate ways, which will allow these companies to build on those connections … and profit from them. The question is, who will have the most innovative solution, the most relevant business model?