Walmart is getting deeper into the healthcare industry with the launch of the Walmart Healthcare Research Institute (WHRI), to increase community access to healthcare research that could lead to safer and more equitable higher quality healthcare. WHRI will focus on interventions and medications that can make a difference in underrepresented communities, including older adults, rural residents, women and minority populations.
The institute will initially focus on inclusion in studies on treatments for chronic conditions and innovative treatments that should include members from those communities. WHRI is responding to a history of clinical trials that haven’t been representative of the population at large. I In 2020, 75% of trial participants were white, 11% were Hispanic, 8% were Black and 6% were Asian, according to data from the FDA. Walmart believes the proximity of its stores to more people can help the retailer improve the reach of these studies.
“At Walmart, we want to help ensure all our customers have access to high quality, affordable and convenient healthcare resources, including innovative research,” said John Wigneswaran, Chief Medical Officer at Walmart in a statement. “We know our customers are interested in participating in healthcare research, but many have not had access until now. We are already making an impact for our customers and for medical research, by raising patient trust and engagement in their care.”
WHRI will work with a wide range of study partners, including clinical research organizations, pharmaceutical companies and academic medical centers. Existing partners include CTI Clinical Trial & Consulting Services and Laina Enterprises.
“The efforts by Walmart in research are innovative and impactful – it is clear that the intention behind their foray into this space is to genuinely make a difference for patients of all ages, race and gender in their ability to access research,” said Bill Hawkins, Chairman of the Board, Duke University Health in a statement. “This initiative will support individual patient health as well as the health of numerous communities home to Walmart stores.”
Walmart also has launched MyHealthJourney, a digital tool that lets patients access their eligible medical records and insurance information online in one place. The tool is designed to help patients receive reminders for their care services and research opportunities.
Walmart has been deepening its primary care options in other ways as well. The retail giant has been opening Walmart Health locations near Supercenters, including five in Florida in April 2022, and recently entered a 10-year partnership with healthcare and insurance provider UnitedHealth Group that will begin in January 2023. Walmart will incorporate UnitedHealth Group’s Optum program to provide analytics and support tools to clinicians at 15 locations in Florida and Georgia with plans to expand the partnership further in the future.