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Walmart Plans To Capitalize On Primary Care Shortage By Adding Medical Services: UPDATE

First Posted: 11/09/11 02:34 PM ET Updated: 11/09/11 11:00 PM ET

Walmart Medical Services
Walmart plans to offer medical services, according to NPR.

Walmart shoppers may soon be able to get a physical or have an allergy test after picking up their groceries if the big-box retailer gets its way.

The nation's largest retailer sent out a request for potential partners last month that would help the store become "the largest provider of primary care services in the nation," according to NPR and Kaiser Health News. Walmart sent the request -- which indicates that the store plans to offer services ranging from vaccinations to urine tests -- during the same week the retail giant said it would cut health benefits for part-time workers, according to NPR.

By making a push to become a player in the health care industry, Walmart is putting itself in position to take advantage of a highly profitable sector of the economy. And that shouldn't change any time soon. A recent report estimated that health care costs would account for a fifth of the entire U.S. economy by the end of this decade.

Walmart already offers health clinics in some of its locations. The store inked a partnership with Adena Urgent Care last month that would put some of the health provider's clinics in stores in Chillicothe and Washington Court House Ohio starting in January, the Chillicothe Gazette reports.

The health care services could help to bolster Walmart's reputation as a one-stop shop for consumers. The retail giant's financial services arm, which feature "money centers" offering check cashing and bill paying, have gotten a boost since a slew of big banks announced they would start charging debit card fees, according to The New York Times. Many of the banks have since back tracked on their plans to put the charges in place.

In addition to the financial centers, Walmart offers a variety of other services, including auto check ups, vision care and even salons in some locations.

Though the move would make Walmart a one-stop shop for consumers looking for everything from toothpaste to clothes to a stress test, the store would reap other benefits from adding the medical clinics. The demand for primary care physicians is only likely to rise allowing Walmart to capitalize on consumers looking for a doctor. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that the U.S. will be short 21,000 primary care physicians by 2015.

Adding the clinics would also help Walmart compete with drug stores that offer medical services in-house, such as CVS and Walgreens. CVS expanded its Minuteclinic services last month. The seven-day-a-week clinics are now in 600 CVS locations, according to South Carolina news site, SCnow.com.

UPDATE: Walmart says its description of its health care ambitions in the request for information sent to vendors that was obtained by NPR was "overwritten and incorrect," Reuters reports. "We are not building a national, integrated, low-cost primary care health care platform," John Agwunobi, senior vice president & president of Walmart U.S. health & wellness said in a statement, according to Reuters.

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Filed by Jillian Berman  |