Walmart buys telehealth provider MeMD

In a virtual complement to the in-store clinics it is building, Walmart struck a deal to acquire telehealth provider MeMD.

The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based startup was founded in 2010 by an ER physician, and offers virtual urgent care and behavioral health services. Currently, MeMD’s visits are priced at $65 for an urgent care visit and $230 for a psychiatry visit, according to its website.

The companies did not disclose the terms of the deal, which is expected to close in the next few months.

The acquisition would add a virtual component to Walmart’s ongoing healthcare efforts, which involve building in-store clinics with a mixture of preventive health services, including primary care, dental, mental health, hearing and vision services. Walmart launched its first pilot of the concept in Georgia two years ago, and to date has opened about 20 of the clinics.

“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, executive vice president of health and wellness for Walmart, said in a news release. “Today people expect omnichannel access to care, and adding telehealth to our Walmart Health care strategies allows us to provide in-person and digital care across our multiple assets and solutions.”

But since the start of the pandemic, and with the departure of several key leaders at the helm of the initiative, that work has slowed. Sean Slovenski, who first spearheaded the idea, left last fall to join testing startup BioIQ, and the company’s chief medical officer and head of dentistry, who also played a significant role in the development of the clinics, are also departing. 

In the meantime, other retailers are ramping up their own healthcare efforts. CVS Health has opened or renovated 800 of its stores into “Health HUBs,” which have more dedicated space for clinics and other health services. The pharmacy chain recently shared plans to build on a pilot for offering in-store therapy services. 

After piloting telehealth and in-home care for its employees in Seattle, Amazon is offering the service as a covered benefit to other employers. But given the proliferation of telehealth services in the last year, it’s not clear how they — and Walmart — will fare against a growing number of competitors.

One big question is how MeMD will connect people to local care when it is needed, Forrester Principal Analyst Arielle Trzcinski wrote in an email.

“Walmart needed to make an acquisition to close the gap between consumers and their retail store fronts,” she wrote. “…We have seen early success of virtual primary care models, but it has to be backed by the ability to send a consumer seamlessly into higher acuity settings when needed or to specialists when the need arises.”

Photo credit: Sorbetto, Getty Images

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