Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Walmart has an extreme hands-on approach to its health care benefits, and Kaiser Health News reports on the latest frontier in that effort: imaging.

Driving the news: Walmart is already sending its employees to a specified set of high-quality health systems for surgery, and even covering their travel costs. But it figured out that about half of those surgeries were unnecessary, KHN reports, and traced those procedures back to errors in tests like MRIs and CT scans.

  • Walmart then hired the health care analytics firm Covera to figure out a network of high-quality imaging centers, and it now directs its beneficiaries to those centers — even if they're not the cheapest.
  • Employees don't have to use those centers, but Walmart pays for more of the bill if they do.

Quality ratings for imaging centers is hard to come by. Unless you work for Walmart and need a scan, it would be pretty difficult to find the highest-quality option in your area.

  • And, KHN notes, most employers are pushing their workers toward the cheapest options, rather than the best.

Our thought bubble: Walmart seems to be doing the thing everyone else talks about — trying to save money in the long run by investing in quality up front — with rigorous metrics and research to help define it.

Go deeper: Walmart employees must travel for some surgeries

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