Wal-Mart Stores is striding into the market for electronic health records, seeking to bring the technology into the mainstream for physicians in small offices, where most of America’s doctors practice medicine. Wal-Mart’s move comes as the Obama administration is trying to jumpstart the adoption of digital medical records with $19 billion of incentives in the stimulus package.
The company plans to team its Sam’s Club division with Dell for computers and eClinicalWorks, a fast-growing private company, for software. Wal-Mart says its package deal of hardware, software, installation, maintenance and training will make the technology more accessible and affordable, undercutting rival health information technology suppliers by as much as half.
“We’re a high-volume, low-cost company,” said Marcus Osborne, senior director of health care business development at Wal-Mart. “And I would argue that mentality is sorely lacking in the health care industry.”
The Sam’s Club offering, to be made available this spring, will be under $25,000 for the first physician in a practice, and about $10,000 for each additional doctor. After the installation and training, the continuing annual costs for maintenance and support will be $4,000 to $6,500 a year, the company estimates…
Wal-Mart has the potential to bring not only lower costs but an efficient distribution channel to cater to small physician groups. Traditional health technology suppliers, experts say, have tended to shun the small physician offices because it has been costly to sell to them — a large market in total, but scattered.
“If Wal-Mart is successful, this could be a game-changer,” observed Dr. David Brailer, former national coordinator for health information technology in the Bush administration.
First, this sorts the rumors we’ve been hearing about tie-ins between Dell and Wal-Mart. Makes good sense from both sides – including the tablet. Recent visits with family members to a couple of properly computerized practices convince me of the sensibility of tablet computers for that niche.
Second – looks like Wal-Mart is rolling the calendar back decades against some of the greediest in practice management systems. I sold a few of those in the mid-1980’s [phew – has it been that long?] and that’s where prices were, back then.
There’s still the hurdle of pencil-and-paper practice management offices – because the doc in charge is still scared of advancing beyond what he learned in school. But, that’s there regardless of cost.