Walmart, the nation’s largest employer, is joining with telemedicine firm Grand Rounds and Doctor on Demand to launch a targeted program to tackle health disparities among African American workers.
“We have nearly 300,000 Black and African American (employees) and about 50% of our workforce is comprised of people of color, so we spend quite a bit of time thinking about how do we impact and how do we create change here,” said Lisa Woods, Walmart’s vice president of physical and emotional wellbeing.
Walmart is part of a group of large employers, including Target, Best Buy, Medtronic, and State Farm, that are spearheading a new initiative called the Black Community Innovation Coalition in partnership with Grand Rounds and Doctor on Demand. Combined, the group employs more than 500,000 African American workers.
“Obviously the events in the country over the last few years have hastened our desire to come up with a commercial-grade solution,” said Owen Tripp, CEO of the newly merged Grand Rounds and Doctor on Demand, noting that the Covid pandemic has put a spotlight on the serious consequences that can arise from Black health disparities.
The new program will use Grand Rounds’ health assistance platform to target outreach on specific health needs of African American workers. One of the initial programs they are looking at includes encouraging earlier maternity care for Black female employees; Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The goal is to create a culturally specific concierge service to engage workers of color in their health. It’s building on a similar program launched in 2020 to address the specific health need of LGBTQ workers.
“What we’re actually doing is integrating the health-care services, navigation, and advocacy of the program, all in one place … through the employee resource groups,” explained Grand Rounds’ Dr. Ian Tong, executive leader of the Black Community Innovation Coalition.
The market for employer telemedicine plans has become increasingly competitive, with Amazon’s new Amazon Care service, industry leader Teladoc, hospitals, and health insurers all vying to offer integrated virtual primary care services for large employers.
Grand Rounds and Doctor on Demand believes its diverse pool of doctors can help bridge the divide for workers of color who may distrust the health system.
“Our physician practice is almost 50 percent Black, indigenous, or people of color; 21 percent of our doctors are black, 20 percent of our doctors are also LGBTQ,” Tong notes.
The new initiative aims to begin offering targeted services in 2022.