November 18, 2021 Episode 036

The Retailers are Coming (Part 3): Walmart’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Wigneswaran

Dr. John Wigneswaran, Walmart’s new Chief Medical Officer, closes a series of episodes with major retailers disrupting healthcare, following conversations with Walgreen’s CMO and CVS Health’s Chief Strategy Officer.

The Retailers are Coming (Part 3): Walmart’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Wigneswaran

Walmart is the world’s largest retailer with revenues surpassing $120 billion and more than 10,000 locations across the globe. With nearly 5,000 locations in the United States, 90% of Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart store.

No conversation about the role retailers are playing in healthcare disruption would be complete without including Walmart. So to close a thee part series of retail interviews that also included the Chief Medical Officer at Walgreens and Chief Strategy Officer at CVS Health, Keith Figlioli spoke with Walmart’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. John Wigneswaran, for this episode of Healthcare is Hard.

Dr. Wig, as he‘s known, says he never expected to be working at Walmart when he was in medical school. And in fact, even though his father was a pediatrician, a career in medicine seemed to be a remote possibility early in life when he was following his passion for music and signing a record deal. But since then, Dr. Wig has led an impactful career with a variety of roles in the pharmaceutical, medical device and healthcare services industries, after more than a decade of clinical experience as a practicing nephrologist.

Before joining Walmart this year, Dr. Wig was CMO at Express Scripts. He also served as CMO at DaVita Rx, VP of Market Development at Fresenius Medical Care, and Medical Director in medical affairs at Johnson & Johnson (Scios Inc.), among other roles.

Dr. Wig’s conversation with Keith Figlioli about Walmart’s growing role in healthcare covered a number of topics including:

  • The next evolution in pharmacy. Meeting people where they are. Dr. Wig says that finding ways to fit health care into peoples’ day to day activities is a core focus for Walmart. This allows people to avoid rearranging their lives around traditional healthcare structures, and also expands the type of care available to them. Walmart’s omnichannel capabilities can provide the flexibility that people need – especially when it comes to complex and costly interventions around chronic diseases. For example, this could include a person with diabetes being educated about healthy foods or a telepharmacy encounter for someone with an educational need.
  • The retail threat.Building community trust. Most retail settings are about more than just shopping, according to Dr. Wig. People go to their local Walmart store for many reasons, some to simply walk indoors for the exercise, but overall for a sense of community. Dr. Wig says trust is becoming much more local and recognizes the opportunity and responsibility Walmart has to be a place where people can turn for their healthcare needs.
  • The flip side of innovation. The power of data. Walmart has long been known as a pioneer in the way it uses data to improve operations and better serve customers. The company can apply that same know-how and discipline to using data in way that can improve healthcare. Dr. Wig says the company is very focused on the privacy and security aspects of healthcare data and determining how to bring its many sources of data to bear in a safe and responsible way.

To hear Dr. Wig and Keith talk about these topics and more, listen to this episode of Healthcare is Hard.