Opinion: The Price of Healthcare When Walmart’s Your Primary Care Physician

And so it’s come to this: what if Walmart is the future of healthcare?

To assure those who are going to keep reading, this isn’t going to turn into an anti-Walmart/box-store screed. I shop at Target, which is essentially Walmart dressed up for out-of-town company; I’m not in the market to be a hypocrite. It is, though, a contemplation of a possible wrong — or, let’s be fair: a possible right — direction.

“You may not go to the doctor every year, but you come to Walmart often,” a man named Mohamed Khader tells the interviewer. Using a computer, Khader “taps out answers to questions such as how often he eats vegetables, whether anyone in his family has diabetes and his age.” He is also able to weigh himself and check his blood pressure.

Americans are more and more guarded with their finances — mostly because Americans have fewer and fewer finances to risk. The changing face of the way we access healthcare, too, isn’t necessarily making folk feel comfortable. There’s a sense of money wasted for a wellness check-in only to be told that you’re doing fine. Even if annual check-ups are considered a freebie, there’s still the time out of the office.

So: if you can get a free quick answer while shopping for kitchen supplies, maybe the Minute Clinic of the Future isn’t a terrible idea.

There’s a benefit to doctors, too, who, it would seem, would be able to spend more time with patients who were in crisis rather than with those who only needed wellness check-ins.

Now, I did promise that this wasn’t going to be an anti-Walmart screed, and I am a man of my word, but I still need to mention this: is Walmart the best steward of that kind of health information? Because it is Walmart’s kiosks. And that data is going to be stored somewhere. And even if it isn’t necessarily connected to your personal information: does that matter? Do you still want a store like Walmart — or Target or whatever — to have access to the intimate details of your health?

“Some doctors’ groups and consumer advocates urge caution, raising concerns about how companies might use personal health data, the quality of their medical information and whether advertisers and other sponsors might shape their advice and referrals for commercial reasons,” the PBS.org article reminds us.

They also quote Walmart spokeswoman Danit Marquardt: “We don’t have a larger plan for primary care at this time.” That’s actually code for: we are working on a plan for primary care at this very moment.

We will see more and more creative ideas like this as we explore different avenues of healthcare coverage in this country. It will be important, though, to make sure that we’re partnering with the right providers, and that we recognize all of the costs.