Walmart Health earns accolade as Store of the Year

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Primary care services encompass any service the most diligent doctor would offer.

DALLAS, Ga. — About a 40-minute drive from Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, in a community that bears little resemblance to the Texas city that shares the same name, a new health care facility has risen, almost overnight, that seeks, with considerable success, to address the problems many Americans face in gaining access to affordable health care.

The name over the store reads Walmart Health, and it is among the most daring, imaginative and impressive attempts yet made by an American retailer to address the all-consuming issue of health care in the United States. In light of the new format’s promise, the editors of Chain Drug Review have named Walmart Health the publication’s Store of the Year.

The facility is worth the attention of even the most casual observers of health care in America. For those retail participants for whom health care is a basic preoccupation, it is a must-visit destination.

To describe this store in any but the most basic terms is an exercise in futility. The facility is simply too complex, too vast, too all-encompassing, too ambitious to accurately describe or explain. Suffice it to say that any person interested or anxious to improve, restore or maintain a status of well-being could only gain from a visit to the facility in Dallas (Ga., that is).

The Walmart Health facility can be entered either from its own front-facing entrance or through the standard Walmart Supercenter that abuts it. To gain the full measure of the store’s impact and effectiveness, however, we’ll choose the main entrance. From the moment the consumer enters, he or she is engulfed in a world of health care. Walmart associates are available in droves to advise, counsel, recommend or merely guide the customer or answer questions. And those questions know no limits.

Whether the issue is medical attention, dental care, optical needs, perceived or imagined hearing deficiencies, or merely the opportunity to consult with a medical professional, this is clearly the place to be. More impressive, each medical or dental specialty wraps the consumer in a cocoon of professionalism, indistinguishable from what that consumer has always envisioned as the ideal health care facility.

The initial, perhaps overarching, impression is one of professionalism. The staff, the equipment, the surroundings mirror, even exceed, those of the best America has to offer in the practice of medicine. And, somewhat surprisingly in this age of manufactured health care, the consumer is king. Moreover, suffice to say that the consumer who enters the facility exits happier, healthier and more sure of their health than he or she was upon entering.

But enough hyperbole. Here are some facts, in a well-considered effort to explain Walmart Health. In broad terms, the outlet offers primary care services, primary care add-ons, counseling services, dental services and optical services. More specifically, a specialty like dental services runs the gamut from patient exams (including X-rays) and teeth cleaning to teeth whitening and emergency treatment for dental pain. Optometry services range from a routine vision exam to contact lens fitting.

Primary care services encompass any service the most diligent doctor would offer, from basic annual checkups for adults and children to tests for pregnancy, flu and strep. Finally, the facility offers counseling services for both new and existing patients.

But let’s not forget the prices. Most of these services are available for under $50, although in a few instances the prices vary on a case-by-case basis. Of course some procedures are most expensive. A porcelain crown, for example, is listed at $675, teeth whitening at $225, stitches at about $115. In short, these are prices that would not deter a visit to Walmart Health.

But price, it should be noted, is not, and is not designed to be, the determining factor in the customer’s decision to visit the facility. Rather, that factor is the clinic itself. The facility covers some 10,000 square feet, an area divided into separate and unique zones for each of the medical specialties. Separate areas exist for medical, dental and optical services, each physically positioned so as not to intrude on competing facilities. Moreover, each specialty is clearly marked and signed. And, oh, yes, a cadre of associates is always assembled inside the front entrance to guide, advise, suggest and recommend, as the customer and situation dictate.

But enough of the futile attempts to explain the unexplainable. Suffice to say, to those who visit the Dallas (Ga., that is) facility, no explanation is necessary. To those who do not, no explanation is possible.

A few words about the thinking behind this innovative and exciting facility are in order. Walmart senior vice president and president of health and wellness Sean Slovenski and the team behind this excursion into the unknown came to the decision to open the Dallas facility because, as everyone who really cares already knows, health care in America has become too expensive, too limited in the people it reaches and treats, too inaccessible to average Americans, and too complicated. To cite the most obvious example in the retailer’s attempt at simplification, the pharmacy at the Walmart Supercenter abuts the new health care facility. After all, what could be more convenient — or more obvious?

As well as affordable costs, convenience was a consideration in planning Walmart Health. Location and operating hours were chosen to accommodate the schedules of most families. As well, paperwork is kept to a minimum, that being a deterrent for many patients. And of course, prices, as previously mentioned, have been kept affordable, even for those patients without health ­insurance.

The Walmart staff insist (though Sam Walton would surely have objected) that this store is merely a test. Still, a second unit is tentatively scheduled to open in Calhoun, Ga., this month.

With that, we leave you with a final word: To reach the Dallas store, you book a flight to Atlanta.



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