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What if Wal-Mart decided to get into medical tourism?

by David Williams

Wal-Mart should consider getting into the medical tourism market. This suggestion is premature but not far-fetched.Why?

  • First, there is a great deal of overlap between Wal-Mart’s customer and employee base –think about the $4 cash-paying generic drug buyers– and prospective medical tourists. They represent the large and expanding group of people who don’t have insurance coverage but don’t qualify for Medicaid
  • Wal-Mart customers tend to be more rural than average. That coincides with geographies that have a shortage of physicians. Furthermore, those geographies have a high concentration of foreign born physicians. Chances are good that these customers are already seeing doctors from India!
  • Wal-Mart has experience with suppliers in far-flung, low cost markets. Obviously these suppliers are very different from overseas hospitals and clinics, but Wal-Mart would at least have a head start
  • Wal-Mart can bring scale and process efficiency to the relationships, ensuring continued low costs and consistent performance. I worry that if insurance companies start to cover medical tourism they will drive up costs abroad in ways that Wal-Mart wouldn’t
  • Wal-Mart’s in-store health clinics could provide a natural link to foreign specialists
  • Wal-Mart is intent on contributing to solutions to the US health care cost crisis

File this suggestion away for a few years and let’s see what happens.

For more information on medical tourism, visit MedTripInfo. Make sure to take the latest poll while you’re there: What country would you go to for heart valve repair?


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