By Sarah Nassauer and Rolfe Winkler 

Walmart Inc. said Thursday it purchased telehealth provider MeMD, another sign that the retail behemoth aims to expand its healthcare business.

Walmart has worked to build a larger healthcare business in recent years, as part of a wider effort to find new sources of profitable revenue beyond supercenters.

The strategy comes in response to Amazon's business model, according to people familiar with the situation. Amazon relies on profits from its cloud computing and advertising businesses to fend off competitors online with fast, but often less-profitable, home delivery of millions of products.

The MeMD deal opens another front in which Walmart and Amazon will compete, as Amazon recently announced plans to provide its telehealth service, Amazon Care, to its nearly 1 million U.S. employees by summer. Amazon Care, which now serves company workers in Washington state, will also be offered to other employers.

Two years ago, Walmart started opening a handful of clinics in stores, with doctors and dentists offering flat-fee primary care, such as $25 dental X-rays and $40 office visits.

Executives believe that Walmart can build its healthcare businesses by catering to consumers who crave lower prices and more transparency in healthcare costs, according to some of the people familiar with the situation, using its around 4,700 stores as a base.

Walmart already partners with telehealth companies such as Doctor on Demand Inc. to offer services to its 1.3 million U.S. workers. During the pandemic, Walmart made virtual visits free for employees covered by the company's healthcare insurance.

The retail giant didn't disclose financial details of the transaction.

"This acquisition will, over the coming months, allow Walmart Health to provide access to virtual care across the nation," Walmart said. It will also complement its in-person service at Walmart Health Centers, the company said.

Founded in 2012, MeMD provides virtual healthcare across the U.S. and runs 24/7 throughout the year. Walmart expects the deal to close "in the coming months," the company said.

Kimberly Chin contributed to this article.


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 06, 2021 18:47 ET (22:47 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.