Walmart's recent partnership puts the retailer in spinal care

Beginning April 1, a chain of spinal health and wellness centers will appear in Walmart stores, another important step in the retailer’s foray into the healthcare industry.

The retail chain of spine clinics called The Back Company is partnered with IMAC Holdings of Brentwood, Tennessee, a provider of minimally invasive and regenerative orthopedic therapies.

Following the success of a pilot program, The Back Company will offer in-store chiropractic adjustments, corrective instrument adjustments and percussion therapies for soft tissue restoration, muscle relaxation and spinal wellness.

Services are priced at $25 per treatment, with memberships available for $65 per month in addition to family and wellness plans, the company says. The Back Space locations at Walmart stores offer both walk-in and appointment-based treatments.

“We are able to leverage a competitive advantage in a $20 billion industry that makes efficient use of capital to rapidly expand storefronts through franchising,” IMAC CEO Jeff Ervin said in a press release. “Our pilot allowed us to develop our technical infrastructure, refine the services and messaging, and implement the infrastructure needed to launch the franchise program.”

The Walmart partnership comes five years after the retail giant launched its Centers of Excellence program, which partners with healthcare systems that demonstrate appropriate and quality care in specialties like spine surgery and joint replacements.

The program bundles payments for the costs of certain procedures, allowing Walmart to bypass insurers and work directly with healthcare systems.

Walmart’s centers of excellence in spine surgery span hospitals and healthcare systems in 10 states, including Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa., and Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle.

As part of the COE program, Walmart covers all employee travel expenses and back care at certain facilities. Staff can seek care outside of the designated centers, but they are responsible for the bill.

A 2019 Harvard Business Review analysis of the program found:

– Employees with spinal surgeries at Centers of Excellence locations had a median hospital stay of 2.5 days, compared to 2.9 days for non-COE employees.

– 0.6 percent of COE patients were discharged to skilled nursing facilities, compared to 4.9 percent of non-COE patients.

– From 2015 to 2018, the readmission rate per 1,000 patients was three for COE patients and 65 for non-COE patients.

– Patients treated in a center of excellence returned to work after an average of 10.6 weeks, 2.6 weeks earlier than the non-COE patients.