Walmart partnership with Epic aims to simplify info access

As the retail giant rolls out Walmart Health, it will use electronic capabilities to enhance info sharing for patients and stakeholders.

Walmart’s recent decision to enter into a partnership with Epic, the Verona, Wis.-based electronic records system vendor, hints at efforts by the nation’s largest retailer to play a bigger role in healthcare delivery and mesh with other organizations in the ecosystem.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart announced the agreement in late September, saying it expected to begin the rollout of an Epic-developed system in early 2022 in four new Walmart Health Centers in Florida.

The retailer said it picked Epic so it could be a single unified records system to simplify healthcare customers’ efforts “to live healthier.”

The Epic platform will support all of Walmart’s health and wellness lines of business, and through the use of the records system “Walmart Health will engage patients, healthcare professionals, insurance carriers and other stakeholders while enhancing communication, personalization and information sharing amongst healthcare professionals, utilizing a patient portal.”

The selection of Epic’s platform gives a further indication of Walmart’s expected commitment to the healthcare market. The records system is in use at more than 250 healthcare systems – representing 2,000 hospitals and 45,000 ambulatory sites – with nearly half of the U.S. population having their medical records in Epic systems.

Still, the announced partnerships raised some eyebrows, suggesting that Walmart might be looking for the ability to exchange health information easily with providers that are proximate to its retail sites operating health centers.

In September 2019, Walmart opened its first standalone clinic with the Walmart Health name in Dallas, Ga., with a second clinic opening in Calhoun, Ga., in early 2020. At that time, a statement in a quarterly statement of financial results indicated a strategy of taking “an innovative approach to providing basic healthcare services,” with an intent of “partnering with local providers (to deliver) quality, affordable and accessible healthcare for members of the local community.”

Currently, there are 20 Walmart Health Centers serving communities in Arkansas, Georgia and Illinois. They are located within Walmart stores. The retailer has extensive reach in the country, with an estimated 90 percent of Americans living within 15 miles of a Walmart store.

Epic’s electronic health records system is already widely used by primary care physicians in the U.S., and the technology provider expects to tweak its product “to meet Walmart’s unique needs, as we do for all organizations,” said Alan Hutchison, vice president of population health for Epic.

“Walmart chose Epic to power their Walmart Health programs — from the patient experience platform, where patients often start and end their visits, to scheduling and registration, visit documentation, payer-provider collaboration, and the exchange of information between Walmart Health and wherever a patient has received care or will receive care next,” Hutchison continued.

Those patients may flow to settings beyond primary care – for example, to receive behavioral health, dental services and vision care as well. Epic is well-suited to enable those connections, he added. “Walmart chose our comprehensive health record engine – the same system in place across most of the US. What’s unique is Walmart Health’s potential reach, accessibility and affordability. We’re excited to see how they use our tools to make healthcare simpler for patients across the country.”

There is no specific immediate target goal for the growth of Walmart Health powered by Epic, said Annie Patterson, director of global communications in corporate affairs for Walmart. “We are excited to bring Walmart Health to more communities. Incorporating Epic software into the clinics is an important component to the openings,” she said.

The retail chain sees this rollout as an opportunity to make “healthcare more affordable and accessible for customers in the communities we serve. Delivering on the integrated care that patients want and deserve also extends to a unified system for health records, which is why we are excited to bring Epic’s electronic medical records platform to Walmart Health. We are confident this will result in a more seamless and personalized healthcare experience."

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