2 Words You Never Thought You’d See Linked Together: Radiology and Walmart

It’d be a stretch to say Walmart has gone into the radiology business. But there’s no denying that the retail behemoth has made a business decision having everything to do with radiology.

And yet the move, announced in mid-May, defies intuition.

Walmart isn’t looking for the cheapest places to image its 1.1 million covered U.S. associates and their dependents. Instead, the company’s benefits execs want to make sure its employees’ medical images are read by radiologists who excel at diagnostic accuracy.

They’ve learned the hard way that the human and monetary costs of iffy interpretations start high and only escalate from there.

Walmart’s senior director of healthcare benefits said so, albeit in more carefully chosen words, in the announcement.

To separate contenders from pretenders, Walmart is working with the analytics company Covera Health. You’ll find a news brief summarizing the development, but the story deserves more ink than we could fit there.

So here’s more.

Reducing misdiagnoses in radiology by crunching data is Covera’s core competency. It was founded in 2017 on this strength and made the news this past February for raising $8.5 million in fresh investments.

That’s a pretty loud vote of confidence in Covera’s ability to push its technology further and, in the process, build on its business momentum.

The company says it uses a proprietary statistical system developed in cooperation with academic radiology departments to tap clinical data amassed over seven years. The result is a Covera stamp of approval on hundreds of radiology centers of excellence across the U.S.

And the company’s involvement doesn’t end with a basic blessing. Covera says it works with its preferred practices to maintain high quality, offering radiologists “actionable clinical feedback” from ongoing analytics.

That’s a lot to promise. Are Covera’s people great at what they do or just great at selling it? That remains to be seen. Either way, the market isn’t alone in recognizing the value they’re aiming to add via continuous quality improvement for radiology. Now we know that Walmart appreciates it too.

Which is noteworthy, not least because Walmart is the largest private employer in the country—by a lot—and in 21 individual states.

When Walmart signals its respect for the contributions made to U.S. healthcare by radiology, radiology would do well to return the favor.

Meanwhile this may be the first time many patients ever stopped to think about the doctor who’s interpreting their medical images.

Walmart, meet radiology. Radiology, Walmart. Two words that may end up sounding pretty good together.