The "Worried Well" and Walmart


As the ways in which primary care is delivered continue to change, Walmart's move to open its own in-store health clinics is a development worth watching.

Perhaps I shouldn’t admit this, but my wife likes to shop at Walmart because she thinks she saves money. When I accompany her I often get frustrated because it seems so hard to find what you want in this big store and staff members are often hard to find to ask where something is located. Some communities resist Walmart because of the impact the company has on traditional retailing. Without commenting on who or what is right, I wanted to comment on the announcement made at the Walmart shareholder meeting that Walmart opened its first company-owned health care clinic in Texas, with an announcement a few days later that additional clinics will be opened under the name Walmart Care Clinic later this month, also in Texas.

For some time now, chain pharmacy operations have tried to position community pharmacies as the neighborhood health center. Will this latest effort by Walmart help to better establish this image or will it be a disruptive force to change how primary health care is delivered in the future?

Who should fear this development more, if anyone should fear it, medicine or pharmacy? Maybe this will be a disruptive force that could begin changing how health care is delivered.

A number of years ago, it was suggested that 75% of those patients who went to a doctor’s office were “the worried well.” They had a self-limited condition, but wanted assurance that they were OK. As chronic diseases have proliferated in more recent times, the worried well are still with us.

Is it the worried well who go to the neighborhood health center, the local pharmacy, while those needing more care go to the physician’s office—or will the neighborhood health center also begin managing chronic diseases? Although I have an opinion, I don’t have an answer, but I suggest we watch these developments over the next 5 years. However, if you haven’t transformed yourself and what you do as a pharmacist while you observe what is happening now, you may find out it is too late to change.

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