Walmart, Other Retailers Expand Into Patient Care as State Laws Allow Pharmacists to Treat Minor Ailments

walmart pharmacy healthcare

From treatment for chronic illnesses to minor ailments, retailers are leveraging their widespread presence to capture a larger share of healthcare spending, offering customers solutions that prioritize convenience, affordability and personalized experiences.

On Tuesday (Aug. 29), Walmart announced that is pioneering Testing and Treatment, a program that enables Walmart pharmacists to test and treat customers for strep throat, flu and COVID-19 — all in one place.

Available at Walmart pharmacies in 12 states, seven days a week, this expansion into patient care comes as new state laws allow pharmacists to treat minor ailments, providing convenience and saving patients time and money.

“A flu test may lead to a prescription for Tamiflu, or a sore throat could be calmed by tea and chicken noodle soup. Either way, it’s only aisles away. Our pharmacies are ready to be more than your second or third stop on the path to getting better — they can be your only stop,” , senior vice president, Walmart Health & Wellness, Pharmacy, said in the statement.

Similarly, Walgreens plans to roll out a similar offering across 13 states, while CVS pharmacists evaluate symptoms and prescribe flu antiviral medicine and cough suppressants in 10 states. By offering accessible testing and treatment services, these retailers are aiming to attract not only patients who would typically visit a physician, but also those who would otherwise forgo care due to limited access.

Making Healthcare Affordable for All

While the convenience of accessing healthcare services at major retailers is appealing, the cost can be a concern. Walmart charges $70 for an assessment and between $59 and $88 per test, while Walgreens offers a two-in-one flu and COVID-19 test for $19.99, plus a $44.99 assessment fee. CVS has not disclosed its pricing.

Insurance coverage is also a challenge, as Medicare and insurance providers do not currently cover these services. However, bipartisan legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives aims to provide Medicare coverage for pharmacist-administered tests and treatments for common respiratory illnesses.

Some retailers like Amazon are also stepping up efforts to make healthcare accessible to all. Earlier this month, Amazon Pharmacy — a delivery service for prescription medications launched in November 2020 — announced the debut of automatic, manufacturer-sponsored coupons to help patients save on the high costs of insulin and other diabetes-care products. 

“Customers can save time and money on the most commonly prescribed products … like insulin vials, pens, continuous glucose monitors and pumps,” the company said in a post. “With automatically applied, manufacturer-sponsored coupons, many insulin brands are available to eligible customers starting at $35 a month.”

Overall, the expansion of retail pharmacies into patient care represents a significant shift in the healthcare landscape. While there are challenges to overcome, such as cost and insurance coverage, the convenience and potential cost savings offered by these new treatment options may appeal to many consumers. As state laws and federal regulations continue to evolve, it will be interesting to see how these retailers contribute to shaping the future of healthcare.

Finally, affordable and tech-driven healthcare delivery models are emerging at a time of increasing healthcare costs and the need for remote healthcare access — a trend which has been gaining traction since the onset the pandemic.

According to “The ConnectedEconomy™: Omnichannel Healthcare Takes Center Stage,” a collaboration between PYMNTS and CareCredit, nearly half (46%) of consumers receive care through a mix of physical and digital channels, with telemedicines popularity steadily rising among patients.