Walmart is making a foray into the clinical research space with the launch of the Walmart Healthcare Research Institute, whose mission is to increase community access to healthcare research that may help lead to safer, higher quality and more equitable health care.
WHRI will be focused on innovative interventions and medications that can make a difference in underrepresented communities including older adults, rural residents, women and minority populations.
The company shared that WHRI initially is focused on inclusion in studies on treatments for chronic conditions and innovative treatments that should include members from these communities.
“At Walmart, we want to help ensure all our customers have access to high quality, affordable and convenient healthcare resources, including innovative research,” said Dr. John Wigneswaran, Walmart’s chief medical officer. “We know our customers are interested in participating in healthcare research, but many have not had access until now. We are already making an impact for our customers and for medical research, by raising patient trust and engagement in their care.”
For decades, clinical trials have not been representative of the population at large and often recruit participants who live near research centers, have the time and have the financial ability to participate, Walmart noted. According to Food and Drug Administration data, in 2020, 75% of trial participants were white, 11% were Hispanic, 8% were Black, and 6% were Asian. Walmart is focused on studies that can have a health equity impact in the communities it serves and represent all populations. With 90% of Americans living within 10 miles of a Walmart, the retailer can offer solutions to care by meeting customers and patients where they live and work, the company said.
Walmart is working with a wide range of study partners, including clinical research organizations, pharmaceutical companies and leading academic medical centers, including CTI Clinical Trial & Consulting Services and Laina Enterprises. WHRI is already demonstrating strong results, with a referral rate 3x the industry benchmark, the company said.
“The efforts by Walmart in research are innovative and impactful – it is clear that the intention behind their foray into this space is to genuinely make a difference for patients of all ages, race and gender in their ability to access research,” said Bill Hawkins, chairman of the board of Duke University Health. “This initiative will support individual patient health as well as the health of numerous communities home to Walmart stores.”
To help make it easier for research patients to simplify their care, Walmart launched MyHealthJourney, a digital tool that lets patients take control of their own data through easy access to their eligible medical records and insurance information online in one place. With MyHealthJourney, patients receive reminders for care services and research opportunities to help them keep their health on track.
“Walmart's research initiative aligns with North Carolina A&T's strategic plans to further expand its local, regional and national community engagement activities in order to reduce social, economic and health disparities within African American populations,” said Dr. Raymond Samuel, professor of biology at North Carolina A&T State University; Center of Outreach in Alzheimer’s Aging and Community Health; past project director, Hampton University-based Minority Men’s Health Initiative. “Walmart's interest in ensuring that DEIA is at the core of its effort to increase customer access to clinical trials is in synergy with the historical commitment of NC A&T to enhancing the well-being of its communities.”
The retailer said that Walmart’s Healthcare Research Institute is an extension of Walmart’s long-standing commitment to helping expand access to patients and underrepresented populations. Walmart cited its low-cost medicines, such as $4 generic medication program and private label Relion insulin, high-quality health care at Walmart Health Centers and Vision Centers, partnerships and programs to address social determinants of health and now the opportunity to enroll in healthcare research.