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What I Experienced At The Walmart Health Grand Opening (with photo gallery)

The Grand Opening Ceremony
Along with several other dental industry veterans including the executive director of the ADSO, Chris Badgley, and Walmart’s head of dentistry, Dr. Roshan Parikh, I had the unique opportunity to attend the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony of the second Walmart Health Center. The grand opening took place on January 29th in Calhoun, GA at the newly remodeled Walmart Supercenter located at 448 West Belmont Drive.

(l to r) Clint Campbell, A-dec; Bill Neumann, Group Dentistry Now; John Bettencourt, A-dec; Jon Fidler, Fidler & Assoc; Christopher Badgley, ADSO; Dr. Roshan Parikh, Walmart Health

The first location opened in Dallas, GA on September 13, 2019. Calhoun is 49 miles south of Chattanooga, Tennessee and 68 miles north of Atlanta. The town is the county seat of Gordon County and is seeing substantial growth, much like its neighbor Atlanta. I wouldn’t characterize the area as a suburb or even an exurb of Atlanta, but a rural town that is midway between Atlanta and Chattanooga.

The grand opening was a huge event for Calhoun, with Walmart executives as well as celebrities in attendance. Actor Mark Wahlberg was there as Walmart announced their partnership with his foundation to address the country’s opioid crisis. The president of Susan G. Komen, Paula Schneider, was also at the grand opening. Walmart will be partnering with their organization to help expand access to care and meet women’s health needs, such as mammogram screenings and support services for the underserved.

Walmart’s Health Center features primary care, counseling, labs & x-rays, health screenings, optometry, hearing, fitness & nutrition, health insurance education & enrollment, and of course, dental care. Walmart will also be partnering with local providers to deliver certain services. At the Calhoun location, Tivity Health will provide health and wellness classes.

The Walmart Health facility is adjacent to the existing, remodeled Walmart Supercenter. Open seven days a week, their hours are Monday-Saturday from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm and Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm.

According to Sean Slovenski, Walmart Senior vice president and president of Walmart Health & Wellness, each Walmart Health is unique and is need-specific to the area. The Dallas, GA Walmart Health location and Calhoun, GA locations are similar, but not identical. Walmart is learning what the needs of the patients are as they build these locations and adapting and improving as they continue to add health centers.

Walmart is in no rush to scale their health centers. They have put a lot of thought into the process and are learning from each location they build. According to several sources, in the future the health centers will be built offsite in “pods” or sections and then brought in on trucks and added on to existing Walmarts. The plan is to add additional locations in Georgia and then expand into other states.

The Walmart Health Tour
Once the ribbon cutting ceremony ended, attendees were able to take a tour of the brand new Walmart Health facility. Entering via the main Walmart Health doors, there is a large lobby area. Pricing, and other information, is clearly displayed on a rotating LED screen as soon as you enter. Once you are through the Walmart Health Center lobby entrance, you can head directly into the store, or you can make a left and check into the Health Center.

Inside the center there is a check in / out area where you are greeted by health center employees. Moving through the facility we got the opportunity to see and learn about the various health services that are provided including primary & urgent care, dental, counseling, optometry, hearing, health & fitness classes, health insurance enrollment assistance and community resource consultations.

Moving past the lab and primary care areas, we entered the dental services section. I was struck by the layout and color scheme. It is very inviting, bright and open. On one side of the hall there was a sterilization center complete with a CEREC. Across the hall there are four multi-purpose operatories decked out with A-dec chairs and cabinetry.

The tour continued past the area for x-ray and then out into the optometry center. You can walk directly into the main store via the lobby area or through the optometry center. One of the first aisles you’ll encounter is filled with toothpaste and other oral health items.

Customer Experience vs. Patient Experience
Dental support organizations as well as solo dental practice owners can learn a lot from Walmart Health’s approach to the market. As an industry, we tend to be focused on the patient experience. That sounds great, but in many cases the definition of patient experience from a dental provider perspective is simply providing quality dental care. But it is already the expectation of a patient that they will get the best care possible.

The market needs to focus more on the customer experience and not just the patient experience. Simply put, quality dental care (a.k.a. the patient experience) is no longer enough. In addition to that quality dental care, the consumer also wants convenience, an aesthetically pleasing environment, an enjoyable setting, expanded hours, transparent pricing, and online scheduling. Ideally they would also like multi-specialty dental care under one roof and even whole health care under one roof.

Walmart Health’s model will challenge the dental norm and the dental industry. Both DSOs and solo practice owners alike need to give the customer what they want.

Most likely, the third Walmart Health Center will look very similar, but not identical, to the Calhoun or Dallas locations as Walmart continues to learn to meet the needs of customer base.

We will keep the Group Dentistry Now audience informed as healthcare and retail continue to intertwine and the dental industry adapts to the needs of the customer.

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