Just to be clear, I do not like Walmart. I don't agree with most of their ethics, nor how they treat their employees. It truly bothers me when I hear about small local companies going out of business because a new Super Walmart is being built around the corner! Personally, I don't shop there... ok, ok you got me. When I need a yard rake, a referee whistle and 2 dozen eggs at 3am on Wednesday, Walmart is my spot! But don't take that as a positive endorsement from me. In fact a few years back, when I was asked to 'describe my perfect day' as part of my Amazing Race application, I started by saying "I wake up, turn on the news and find out that Walmart has gone out of business." True story. So yeah, not a fan at all.
That being said, the point here isn't to defend or condemn Walmart. The point is...to show that Walmart (likely one of the most publicly hated corporation in the world) is far far better to it's customers than Healthcare is to theirs.
Before I elaborate on why this is true, I want set the scene with a bit of context.
- Yes, Walmart operates in a different competitive environment.
- Yes, Healthcare as an industry is far more regulated.
- Yes, comparing an industry to a Corporation doesn't perfectly align.
But Who Is Your Customer?
Also, the crux to this argument is dependent on a perspective that sees 'the customer' for both Walmart and Healthcare as the end user.
Walmart Customer = Us, 'The Consumer'
Healthcare Customer = Us, 'The Patients'
Unfortunately, (we, the patient) constantly find that our healthcare's priorities are totally out of whack. So much so that you, me, we and us (those who need healthcare), aren't even really considered 'the customer.' Internally, within the healthcare industry, it's completely backwards: insurance companies, pharma companies, medical device companies and others, are viewed as the 'customer.' Do you find it strange or upsetting that even though the industry would not exist without us; we aren't even given the courtesy to be seen as 'the customer'.
Don't Hate The Bayer...Hate The Game
When it comes to suppliers, Walmart acts like a starving rabid, steroid fueled Pit-bull. They are absolutely brutal. They use buying power to beat suppliers down on price. They erase all creative freedom, they threaten to instantly drop product lines, they demand new packaging and then, refuse to pay for it. They put the Fear of Walmart into these suppliers, everyday. That being said, they do all of that to make 100% sure that their prices are always the absolute lowest for us, the customers. We demand it, they meet that demand.
Compared to Walmart, 'the suppliers' in healthcare (pharma, med device, hospitals, insurance, etc.) walk around like Greek Gods wrapped in Gucci kevlar. Healthcare suppliers are typically more concerned with fattening each others pockets than providing the best value for us (the patient).
For example, in 2013, after hearing about ludicrous medical bill charges, a New York Times reporter ran a story on the ridiculous prices patients were being charged by hospitals; specifically the price for a bag of saline (saltwater). He found that on average, people were charged $546 for IV bags of saline. The manufacturing cost for it is under $1.
So, know this, if Healthcare ran Walmart we would likely see prices closer to these.
Come on, let's be honest, even healthcare wouldn't have the stones to overprice Paul Blart Mall Cop 2...
The truth is Walmart makes every effort to give its customer's, true value. Of course, the products or services being offered by healthcare, are far more important to our lives, than stuff... but that isn't the point. My point is that when we need a product or service from either, there should be a close to, even exchange, in value from the transaction. You won't find this in healthcare though. this isn't the case because the moment you need it, is the moment you lose all of your power to do anything about it.
Supplier relations are just one of many ways that Walmart is better to their customers. With Walmart, we benefit because the middleman is not the priority! But in healthcare, we all pay more (directly or indirectly) because the middleman is more important than we are!?
I leave you with this; if you are dying from dehydration, you could probably find the solution at your nearest hospital or your local Walmart. But as the New York Times report has shown us, Walmart would save you $543.12 if you bought their water...They do fight for you after all.
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