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Walmart, large employers launch virtual care service to tackle Black health disparities

Walmart is partnering with virtual care company Grand Rounds Health and Doctor On Demand on a digital health program aimed at tackling health disparities among African American workers.

Walmart and a group of other large employers including Accenture, Best Buy, Genentech, Medtronic, State Farm and Target are spearheading a new initiative called the Black Community Innovation Coalition in partnership with the virtual care company.

Combined, the group employs more than 500,000 African American workers.

The companies say it's the first dedicated care concierge and healthcare navigation platform focused on improving the healthcare experience and advancing health equity for Black Americans. The goal is to create a culturally specific concierge service to engage workers of color on their health.

"Health disparities in the Black community have been a known problem for decades, and the COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the inequities around access and advocacy that have been driven by a pattern of structural and interpersonal discrimination. The time is now to deliver solutions that drive meaningful change," said Ian Tong, M.D., chief medical officer of Grand Rounds Health and Doctor On Demand and executive leader of the coalition, in a statement.

"We are proud to have built the capabilities to help under-resourced populations over the past decade into a solution tailored for Black Americans. The community has long deserved resources that provide agency over care direction, advocacy, and access to improve trust, care experiences and outcomes," Tong said.

Doctor On Demand merged with Grand Rounds earlier this year to form an integrated virtual care company. The combined company expanded again in May to include a care concierge platform for the LGBTQ+ community with the acquisition of Included Health.

The company said it has built a culturally diverse care team that can help engage Black workers. About 43% of the company's doctors are BIPOC, more than 60% women; 20% of behavioral health providers are LGBTQ+ and 21% are Black, a number that represents four times the national average.

The Black Community Innovation Coalition will work closely to inform the digital health program through a combination of targeted market research studies, employee-led focus groups, population health analyses and product design workshops. The coalition's early exploration in this area has already identified potential zones of impact including maternal and fetal health, cardiometabolic disease, primary care access, behavioral health and more. These insights will help further tailor the care navigation, physician quality and coordinated care support that Grand Rounds Health and Doctor On Demand deliver to members.

"We're proud to be on the leading edge with Grand Rounds Health, Doctor On Demand, and other employers in developing a resource to help improve access to quality healthcare for the Black and African American community," said Lisa Woods, Walmart vice president, physical and emotional well-being, in a statement.

"The effort aligns with Walmart's commitment to address disparities in healthcare access, engagement and outcomes. Together, through collaboration and innovation, we will make it easier to find good doctors and make quality healthcare attainable for underserved populations."

The program's focus groups will provide a deeper understanding of the local access and care challenges for national employers than what is available on the market today, the companies said. The Included Health coalition work will culminate with the full market launch of the product designed for the Black community in early 2022.

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