Amazon-Led Health Care Venture To Disband As Walgreens, Walmart Ramp Up
The JV partners formed Haven with the goal of finding ways of lowering costs and improving outcomes in the U.S. health care system, which persistently costs more but delivers worse outcomes than dozens of other nations.
A report comparing 11 high-income nations prepared by the Commonwealth Fund found that the U.S. spends the most on health care as a percentage of its economy (16.2% in 2018). That is nearly twice as much as the average of the other high-income countries (8.8%), but America still has the lowest life expectancy and highest suicide rates among the 11 countries.
Tackling an entrenched problem of that magnitude apparently proved to be too much even for companies as large as the Haven partners. In 2019, in a hint that Haven might not be up to the task, Berkshire CEO Warren Buffett said that there was no guarantee that Haven would succeed in its goals.
One difficulty for the JV was that the three partners tended to pursue their own projects separately, according to CNBC, citing an anonymous source familiar with Haven.
Other corporate giants, retailers in particular, are also out to change the face of U.S. health care delivery. In 2020, Walgreens Boots Alliance, in partnership with VillageMD, announced plans to open 500 to 700 clinics at Walgreens sites in 30 U.S. markets over the next five years, with about 40 opening this year.
Walgreens tested five in-store clinics in the Houston market and said they were successful. The clinics will offer a variety of physician services on-site, as well as care via telehealth and at-home visits.
Another retail giant, Walmart, has expanded into retail health care, opening 15 clinics in 2020, with plans for further expansion, with seven more by the end of 2021. All together, Walmart has more than 4,700 U.S. stores, meaning that its health care locations still represent a tiny fraction of its total so far.
The opportunity for further retail health care has surged as the coronavirus pandemic spurred greater consumer use of retail health care clinics, according to a late 2020 survey by digital signage company UPshow. That is because people have been consolidating errands more than previously, and a visit to a pharmacy can also be one to a retail health care clinic at the same location.
The survey found that 32% of consumers said COVID-19 increased their usage of retail health clinics, with nearly half (49%) saying that they will be more likely to use these clinics even after the pandemic. Also, the majority of health care executives (74%) reported that the pandemic has increased the volume or revenue or both of their health care offerings.
UPshow also found that 77% of consumers have at least one prescription that requires a pharmacy visit for refills on a regular basis, and more than half (56%) would consider visiting on-site retail health care for other services. The company surveyed 500 consumers and 250 retail health care executives nationwide.