If you’re a Walmart shopper and a pet owner, you’re in for some good news if you carry a Plus subscription with the mega-retailer. According to recent reports, beginning Tuesday, May 22, 2023, Walmart — which is partnering with veterinary telehealth provider Pawp — will be offering Walmart+ subscribers free access to virtual veterinarians for a whole year.
Walmart’s surge into veterinary telehealth comes as the business attempts to more readily compete with Amazon while holding onto its higher-end customers by making its subscription service more of a value to those that use it.
Attention, Walmart Shoppers
Those customers that decide to actually move on the offer will have unlimited access to veterinary telehealth via video or text as remote veterinarian visits continue to grow in popularity largely due to convenience. But some vets worry the practice, if normalized, could lead to health risks for pets. The same could be and has been said about human tele-appointments with their doctors.
Those Walmart+ subscribers who are interested will have until November 19, 2023, to opt-in. While the exact terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, Pawp’s annual membership begins at $99. On the other hand, Walmart+ costs $98 annually, or $12.95 a month. Much like Amazon Prime, Walmart’s membership provides subscribers with access to unlimited free deliveries, free access to Paramount+, and discounts at gas pumps, among other benefits.
By including Pawp in its subscription service, Walmart hopes to keep its membership plan competitive.
“It’s undeniable that over the past decade we started thinking and looking at pets as part of the family,” Pawp’s CEO Marc Atiyeh noted to CNBC. “[Walmart has] a very strong thesis around the pet category and, yes, they want to be a big player in pet care and pet health in general. And Pawp really allows them to leapfrog the competition and do something that none of the other players have done.”
Interestingly, many, if not most, states in the U.S. forbid veterinarians from diagnosing conditions or prescribing medications virtually unless they’ve previously examined the animal in person and established what’s known as a veterinary client/patient relationship, aka VCPR. It makes sense, as human beings can’t get prescriptions renewed if they haven’t seen their physician in the last year.
Pawp Veterinary App
In states that allow virtual visits, Pawp veterinarians can prescribe medications and diagnose patients where appropriate. The company’s founder defended the practice and asserted that the best veterinary care comes when “physical and digital get married.”
“More often than not, especially within our industry, regulations lag behind what I would say is the latest innovation, latest kind of like findings, so we want to make sure that we strike the right balance,” said Atiyeh.
He added, “We have a huge shortage of vets, right? The last thing you want is a pet that is in need of a certain medication . . . to not get the proper care that they need, to not get the medication that they need only because they couldn’t get physical access to that vet.”