A top Walmart healthcare exec left the retail giant to run a company that's looking to upend lab testing

  • In August, Sean Slovenski left Walmart after two years as its president of health and wellness.
  • On Monday, he began a new job as CEO of BioIQ, an Atlanta-based lab-testing company. 
  • At the helm of Walmart's health team during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, Slovenski was exposed to the shortcomings of the lab-testing industry in the US, and that led him to join the team at BioIQ, he said.
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Three weeks after Sean Slovenski departed his role as Walmart's president of health and wellness, he's taken a new post at a lab-testing company. 

On Monday, Slovenski started as the CEO of BioIQ, a company that's looking to change the way lab testing is done in the US. Slovenski said the decision to leave Walmart came as the healthcare work he oversaw there entered a new phase.

"I'm more of a transformation person than a day-to-day operator," Slovenski said. Once he got the health business on the right track, it was time to move on, he said. 

At BioIQ, Slovenski will focus on one of the main problems facing the US healthcare system: lab testing. It's a problem he wouldn't have identified nine months ago, before the pandemic began. 

Read more: Walmart is moving past its experimental phase in healthcare and plotting a massive expansion into Florida as the retail giant looks to take on the $3.6 trillion industry

BioIQ partners with labs around the US to run medical tests

Rather than own laboratories outright, BioIQ partners with labs around the country to provide groups like insurers, employers, and government organizations with testing capabilities. BioIQ got its start in 2005 and is backed by investors including HealthQuest Capital and Arboretum Ventures. Slovenski said part of his role as CEO may include leading the privately held company to an initial public offering, 

The idea behind BioIQ is to help eliminate testing bottlenecks, such as when an area of the country experiences a surge in coronavirus cases. The company currently has the overall capacity to run 500,000 tests a day, Slovenski said.

Slovenski compared BioIQ's business to Uber's approach to transportation.

"Very similar to Uber, we don't own the drivers and we don't own the cars. So we don't own the laboratories and we don't own the test," he said. "What we own is the entire vetting, quality process, the getting them from wherever they are to the right person, in the right hand, organizing all that in a consistent way, getting the results in in a timely manner, and then being able to provide those results with the right diagnosis, analytics, etc."

Slovenski has known the company for a while and mentored the company's cofounder, Justin Bellante, who's stepping into the role of president and chief operating officer. He's also used the company's testing services over the years. 

The pandemic exposed the shortcomings of testing in America

Slovenski said he experienced a number of frustrations with lab testing services during his time at Walmart that led him to take the job at BioIQ.

At the retailer, he was tasked with navigating the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, including setting up testing centers for customers as part of a White House initiative. 

He said, there were three things about the testing response to the pandemic that were "shocking" and "disappointing."

First, there was complacency among lab services providers who thought they could keep running their businesses the way they had for decades.

"They thought they could handle anything," he said. When the pandemic hit and overwhelmed the capacity of the testing supply chain, it became clear that wasn't the case. 

Then, there were the number of tests that never got returned. 

"Whole chunks of tests would just disappear," Slovenski said. "It was just mind boggling," he added.

Third, there were discrepancies between how many tests a company would commit to providing to a site, and how many would actually show up, he said.

Walmart's healthcare push

At Walmart, Slovenski spearheaded the company's push into opening health centers. Walmart began opening the clinics about a year ago, and Slovenski recently said Walmart would expand the effort into new areas, including Florida.

Slovenski told Business Insider last year that the goal was to do for healthcare what Walmart's supercenter stores did for retail: offer a breadth of services conveniently and at a much cheaper price point than rivals. 

Walmart previously said that the clinic expansion would continue after Slovenski's departure.

"We will miss Sean, but we are excited to continue building and expanding on what he created at Walmart and to provide many more customers with affordable, accessible, essential health care options," Walmart US CEO and President John Furner said in a memo to Walmart employees on August 4.

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