retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Fox Business reports that Walmart-owned Sam's Club is "teaming up with several health care companies to offer discounts on everyday care its customers might delay or skip because of the cost … Customers will be able to buy one of four bundles of health care services ranging in annual fees from $50 for individuals to $240 for a family of up to six members."

The story notes that Sam's is being careful not to call this a kind of health insurance, but rather define it as a "discount health program that can supplement insurance and bring down out-of-pocket costs" for "individuals, business owners and families who are delaying or skipping basic care because of high deductibles."

The program will be rolled out next month in membership clubs located in three states - Michigan, Pennsylvania and North Carolina - but could see a national rollout if it is successful.

And, CNBC reports that "Amazon has launched a virtual health clinic with in-home follow-ups for employees in Seattle, dubbed Amazon Care," describing it as "a combination of telemedicine and in-person services."

Here's how the story frames the pilot program: "Its virtual offering includes an 'in-app video visit with a doctor, nurse practitioner, or registered nurse ... for advice, answers, diagnosis, treatment or referrals,' according to the web site. Employees will have an option to see a health provider via a mobile app or website, and they can text a nurse on any health topic in minutes. If an employee needs follow-up care, Amazon Care can arrange for a nurse to pay a visit at home.

"Amazon will also prescribe medications via Amazon Care within a few hours, or offer a way for employees to pick them up at a preferred pharmacy."

The story notes that "health care represents a $3.5 trillion sector for Amazon, which is looking at ways to bring in technology ranging from cloud computing to medical record technology. The company in 2018 joined up with J.P. Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway for an effort, later called Haven, to explore how to move the needle on health-care expenses, without compromising quality, for their combined 1.2 million employees." And, it also "has a pharmacy group under PillPack, a company it acquired in mid-2018."

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that CVS is looking to put people to sleep.

According to the story, CVS "is encouraging employers to cover the costs for their workers to use Sleepio, an insomnia app featuring a cartoon therapist that delivers behavior modification lessons," a move that "could help mainstream the nascent business of digital therapeutics, which markets apps to help treat conditions like schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis. The company recently introduced, along with Sleepio, a way for employers to cover downloads as easily as they do prescription drugs."

The story goes on: "Big Health, the start-up behind Sleepio, is one of more than a dozen companies that are digitizing well-established health treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy, or devising new therapies — like video-game-based treatments for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — that can be delivered online. Since last year, a few pharmaceutical companies, including Novartis, announced partnerships with start-ups to develop digital treatments for mental health and other conditions.

"So far, the use of treatment apps has been limited. But with the backing of CVS Health, which administers prescription drug plans for nearly one-third of Americans, those therapies could quickly reach tens of millions of people."
KC's View:
Some of this stuff is internal and some external, but there's no question that we are seeing an extraordinary confluence of innovations here, all focused on healthcare and selfcare. I'm looking forward to discussing some of them at a pair of sessions/podcasts that I'll be doing in about 10 days at the GMDC Selfcare Summit in Indianapolis … if you're there, I hope you'll join us.