Over the past year, we’ve seen big tech giants and retailers entering into the healthcare market and Walmart is just the latest example. As one of America’s largest retailers, Walmart recently acquired a technology platform called CareZone, which offers a worry-free way for consumers to organize health information and access vital health services, in an effort to enhance its digital health and wellness capabilities.
I recently spoke with Omri Shor, co-founder and CEO at Medisafe, a leading digital therapeutics company providing medication management solutions for patients across the healthcare continuum, to learn about the impact of Walmart’s recent acquisition on the digital health and pharmaceutical space, as well as the broader role of digital health in the future of care and what this could mean for healthcare consumers moving forward.
Q: How will Walmart’s recent acquisition of CareZone impact the healthcare industry?
Consumers are engaging and adapting with digital health more than ever and incorporating it into their daily routines. With Walmart, you’re taking a retail giant with pharmacy capabilities and licenses across all 50 states and adding a digital health component. It’s a great model for Walmart and this acquisition solidly moves them into the digital health space.
Walmart will now gain vast amounts of healthcare consumer data and, coupled with its vast network of brick and mortar stores, the addition of CareZone may even put it one step ahead of Amazon. What will be key to watch for is Walmart’s ability to support those patients managing chronic conditions who require dedicated programs to affect lasting behavior change in addition to end-to-end support which requires coordination across the healthcare ecosystem.
Q: What would it take for Walmart to successfully move into this industry with this acquisition of CareZone?
Adding CareZone’s technology platform to Walmart’s existing digital capabilities and physical reach creates a unique opportunity to redefine what the future of digital health and wellness can look like across the board. Now more than ever, patients require digital hand-holding to navigate multiple treatments. That being said, digital health tools have the ability to empower patients and improve their outcomes through seamlessly integrated technology.
For Walmart to have a successful entrance into the digital health space, a deep understanding of the needs of patients is critical. While the company has the retail and pharmacy aspect handled, true success will require connection across many other hubs within the broader healthcare ecosystem.
Whether that be connecting payers with providers or providing consumers with a mobile app for medication adherence, having the capacity to connect across the continuum is something Walmart should be thinking about building into their market strategy. Once the ecosystem piece comes full circle, Walmart will have the power to integrate their business model into the everyday lives of American consumers, which will be imperative to support patients along their journey.
Q: In this new decade, do you expect to see an increase in virtual or digital health offerings overall? What other innovative technologies will impact the future of care, especially within the pharmaceutical space?
2020 has already launched a healthcare evolution due to the coronavirus pandemic, forcing patients to more actively participate in their healthcare journey, leaning on digital health tools to stay safe. The pandemic has served as a catalyst for the consumerization of healthcare, as mainstream companies like Walmart continue to launch into the digital health space. Through CareZone’s digital health solution, coupling Walmart, a retail giant with this digital health component allows healthcare consumers to adapt and engage with traditional healthcare more than they would with any other retail experience.
While Walmart’s acquisition of CareZone is a strong step forward, I don’t expect the digital health momentum to slow down anytime soon. Consumers crave convenience in all aspects of their lives, something that has historically been a missing piece of the healthcare industry puzzle.
Digital health technologies come in many forms, from fitness or sleep trackers, telehealth, wearables, to personalized digital therapy. We currently live in a world of technology and strive towards personalization in medicine. What’s needed to help patients with chronic complex conditions is continual support and personalized, targeted interventions. Digital drug companions provide continual support to patients through therapeutically designed AI and a direct connection into care teams at critical times.
Looking ahead to advancing the role of artificial intelligence, solutions that leverage personalized recommendations sourced directly from patients in their everyday lives, will improve patient outcomes, promote patient engagement and experiences, and will facilitate healthcare delivery decisions that are closer aligned with and have greater influence over patient behavior.
Walmart is a large-scale retailer using digital health to connect with a mass consumer base in their everyday lives and it is truly exciting to see this collaboration come to fruition. Undoubtedly, there will be more change, upheaval, market dynamics and outside factors that impact healthcare consumers’ daily lives, which is why patients will continue to seek trusted brands and digital health resources they can rely on, to feel supported during each step of their healthcare journey.