Will Walmart's health services shortchange mental health professionals?

Bambi Francisco Roizen · January 21, 2020 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/4f70

Future of Mental and Behavioral Health weekly

We have our Future of Mental and Behavioral Health salon coming up on March 25, 2020 at UCSF. If you'd like to join us, go here and REGISTER for this popular event. 

We have a great lineup of corporate innovators, such as Nico Arcino, Head of Strategic Partnerships at Kaiser, as well as Tim Blevins, SVP of Behavioral Health at UnitedHealthcare Optum. See our lineup here. As always, I'll curate a weekly roundup of interesting news around the internet that has to do with this topic, starting with Walmart's push into mental health services at its pilot program called Walmart Health centers. 

Will Walmart's mental health services shortchange professionals? 

Last fall, Walmart opened its first "Walmart Health" center in Dallas, Georgia and plans to open a second one in Calhoun, Georgia sometime in 2020. These new centers are designed to be a "super center for basic healthcare services," Sean Slovenski, SVP and President of Walmart Health and Wellness, told Forbes. The new center, this one 10,000 square feet, will provide far more services than Walmart's Care Clinics, including behavioral and mental health services. But some wonder who will staff these clinics for the behavioral health services, especially because Walmart's pricing for such services are far cheaper than a traditional therapist. For instance, some reports say the clinic can charge $1 per minute for a therapist. The US already faces a shortage of mental health professionals. While nurse practitioners might fill some of the demand Walmart creates, the proposed fees mean most professionals won't be paid what they're expecting to be paid. 

These new centers add to Walmart's growing role in healthcare. It already runs one of the largest pharmacy chains in the US. Health and wellness accounted for $36 billion, or 9 percent, of its 2018 sales. 

Read more. 

Will Walmart's healthcare gamble pay off?

This is a little older article (October 2019), but it too raises questions regarding Walmart Health centers. In this piece, Robert Field, professor of law, health management and policy at Drexel University and Mark Pauly, Wharton health care management professor, discuss the new service. Among the questions they ask: Will consumers want to talk about their mental health while they're shopping? Will it come to mind for them to say, "I should buy some socks, and then I'll stop and talk to a Walmart clinician about my mental health." It's unclear whether that will be commonplace consumer activity. Consumers need to "trust" their provider. It's unclear whether the big-box retailer has that kind of trust. It's also unclear whether Walmart wants to create a longstanding relationship between a patient and a doctor, or whether these are one-off appointments. While this question didn't come up during their conversation, the one question I have are how do these services primarily get paid for: Medicaid or Medicare? Out-of-pocket payments? 

Read more.

More college students than ever before are seeking services for depression.  

Mental health problems are getting worse at college campuses. According to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State, the number of students seeking treatment for depression and anxiety have risen in the last several years. Visits to campus counseling centers climbed 30% to 40% between the fall of 2009 and the spring of 2015, according to the study. This despite enrollment just going up 5 percent during the same time. The students are dealing with adjustment to a new place, leaving their families and relationships, Brian Fuller, Western Michigan University's counseling services director, told WWMT. Some of the numbers from various schools also show the upswing, not only in students seeking care but the amount of funding to provide care. In Wester Michigan, Kalamazoo, funding went up 50% to $1.36M with number of students seeking help up 31% to 1721. In Michigan State University in Lansing, the number of students seeking care rose 37 percent to 13,347 while funding soared 130 percent to $4.1 million. 

Read more.



Suicide rates are higher in rural areas


One study showed that lower quality mental health care is offered to rural residents. 


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Image: Walmart, Healthline, mentalhealth4muslims

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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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