Walmart Launches Healthcare Research Institute As Provider Footprint Grows
Walmart is launching a healthcare research institute as the retailer adds more medical care services ... [+]
Walmart is launching a healthcare research arm as the retailer adds more medical care services and works to address health equity and access for medically underserved populations.
The retail giant Tuesday said the Walmart Healthcare Research Institute is designed to increase community access to the latest “interventions and medications” that can make a difference for “older adults, rural residents, women and minority populations” considered underrepresented. In particular, the Institute’s early focus will be on making sure these populations will be included in studies on treatments for chronic conditions and other diseases.
“What we are trying to do is get individuals in the community adequately represented,” Walmart’s chief medical officer, Dr. John Wigneswaran said in an interview. “It’s really about health equity and access. We know our customers are interested in participating in healthcare research, but many have not had access until now.”
Walmart’s effort comes as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Biden White House look to improve drug research and patient health outcomes by enrolling more Americans from underrepresented racial and ethnic populations into U.S. clinical trials.
Given the increasing number of Americans who are seeking care at retail health clinics and pharmacies, Walmart and rivals that include CVS Health and Walgreens say they want to play a role in improving health outcomes for the increasing number of patients they are seeing. Walmart rival Walgreens earlier this year launched a clinical trial business, hoping to increase racial and ethnic diversity for patients in drug research.
The FDA has acknowledged that racial and ethnic minorities are “frequently underrepresented in biomedical research,” the agency said earlier this year when outlining the government’s steps to improve diversity in clinical trials given an estimated one in five drugs have varied responses in ethnic groups yet most clinical trial participants are white.
In Walmart’s case, the healthcare research institute is working with study partners that include: “clinical research organizations, pharmaceutical companies and leading academic medical centers, including CTI Clinical Trial & Consulting Services, and Laina Enterprises.”
Wigneswaran said about 4,000 of Walmart’s stores are in underrepresented areas of the U.S. so the retailer will play a key role in identifying patients for research. “We’re not going to be conducting clinical trials, but we can identify patients who can benefit,” Wigneswaran said.
Bill Hawkins, chairman of the board of Duke University Health said Walmart’s efforts “in research are innovative and impactful” as well as “support individual patient health as well as the health of numerous communities home to Walmart stores.”
Walmart this year is opening six new doctor-staffed “Walmart Health” centers in Florida as the retail giant looks to expand low-cost healthcare services to tens of thousands of its customers. Walmart says it now has 32 Walmart Health centers across Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois and Texas, featuring an array of primary medical services, urgent care including X-ray services, dental and eye care, and behavioral health services as part of a new model being replicated into other markets.
Walmart has also made strides to reach medically underserved Americans who cannot afford treatments or medications. Last year, the retailer launched its own private brand insulin. And more than a decade ago grabbed headlines for rolling out hundreds of generic prescriptions for just $4.
“This is a remarkable initiative by Walmart, addressing a critically important issue by leveraging their reach, resources, and influence,” said Dr. Harlan Krumholz of the Yale New Haven Hospital Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation. “As a trusted brand, I am hopeful that their efforts will make research more readily available to so many who have not had the opportunity to participate and also produce progress toward greater health equity.”