Wal-Mart should consider getting into the medical tourism market. This suggestion is premature but not far-fetched.
- 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.August 22, 2007