Sam’s Club said Tuesday it would offer virtual primary care services to consumers, the latest example of the deepening relationship between retail and health care.
Sam’s Club is offering the new service via a company called 98point6. The retailer said it will provide members exclusive offerings on 98point6’s telehealth virtual clinic via a text-based app.
Through this collaboration, Sam’s Club members with either a Club or a Plus membership can purchase a quarterly subscription at a lower members-only introductory fee of just $20 for the first three months per participant. That compares to 98point6’s regular sign-up fee of $30 per participant. The subscription includes visits for just $1, with unlimited use, and access to U.S. board-certified doctors 24 hours a day and seven days a week. After the first three months, members will pay $33.50 every three months per participant. Members can sign up for the subscription on SamsClub.com.
As well, Sam’s Club members can buy quarterly subscriptions instead of just having a yearly option provided by 98point6. Members will also have access to pediatric care for additional subscribed family members ages 1+ through the 98point6 app.
The pandemic has highlighted the value of retail health care offerings, though the ongoing increase of such offerings was a hot trend before the outbreak — in part, because of an aging population and the often prohibitive cost of healthcare services — and promises to continue well after any new normalcy emerges.
“Offering access to telemedicine was on our roadmap in the pre-COVID world, but the current environment expedited the need for this service to be easily accessible, readily available and most of all, affordable,” said John McDowell, vice president, pharmacy operations and divisional merchandise, Sam’s Club. “Through providing access to the 98point6 app in a pilot, we quickly realized that our members were eager to have mobile telehealth options and we wanted to provide this healthcare solution to all of our members as a standalone option.”
Indeed, the pandemic has provided new fuel to the rising use of telehealth services in the U.S. — another trend reflected by this new Sam's Club healthcare offering. Telehealth claim line volume, for instance, increased 4,132% between June 2019 to June 2020, according to new data from FAIR Health, a nonprofit that focuses on healthcare costs. The group notes that in March and April, many states prohibited in-person rendering of elective procedures and non-emergency medical care, making telehealth an attractive alternative during the pandemic. Even as those restrictions eased, consumer use of telehealth services remain high compared to 2019 — an opportunity for retailers.
Further evidence of that retail opportunity comes from a recent Healthcare Finance survey of healthcare leaders. It found that at least a fifth of healthcare leaders describe the rise of telehealth services as among the leading ongoing healthcare trends for the near term (along with the decline of commercial health insurance).
As for the new Sam's Club offering, the subscription to the 98point6 app provides access to physicians to diagnose and treat more than 400 common conditions like rash, cough and cold, flu-like symptoms and seasonal allergies, as well as provide care, guidance, and monitoring of chronic conditions like diabetes, asthma, heart disease, depression, and anxiety. Sam’s Club members using the 98point6 app can also get necessary prescriptions or labs ordered.
The new subscription offering through 98point6 is a strategic addition to many other high-quality services at a value from Sam’s Club. The subscription is not health insurance. Members-only savings on prescriptions including pet medications, access to low-cost optical and hearing aid services and immunizations are just a few of the health and wellness services available from the retailer.
Walmart, too, is expanding its own healthcare offerings.
Earlier in September, for instance, the retail chain said it plans to open seven more Walmart Health locations in Georgia by the close of the fiscal year, two in the Chicago area this autumn, and seven locations in the Jacksonville, Florida, area in 2021, with at least one opening early next year. Walmart is also teaming up with Blox, a Bessemer, Alabama-based medical module maker, to standardize its manufacturing processes as it expands Walmart Health.
According to the retailer, it’s seeing an increase in visits, with more than half arranged by returning patients. Half of the patients come in for primary care, while the rest receive specialty care addressing such issues as optometry, dental and behavioral health needs.
Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart, Sam's Club parent company, operates more than 11,300 stores under 58 banners in 27 countries, and e-commerce websites, employing 2.2 million-plus associates worldwide. Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer's list of the top food retailers in North America, while Sam's Club ranks No. 9 on the list.