Who said that? If you guessed President Obama, Senator Edward Kennedy, or Hillary Clinton, you’re wrong.
It’s Wal-Mart, on its Health and Wellness webpage.
Wal-Mart’s got a new direct-to-physician strategy: selling electronic health records (EHRs).
The world’s largest retailer, #1 on the Fortune 100, expands on the company’s experience with retail health clinics. The chain now has 30 clinics sprinkled throughout the south, and in each clinic, there’s an EHR system.
The EHRs will be offered through Wal-Mart’s subsidiary, Sam’s Club, jointly with Dell and eClinicalWorks, an EHR vendor. eClinicalWorks currently has an installed base of about 25,000 physicians. The systems will be available before summer 2009.
True to its aggressive pricing tradition, Wal-Mart will offer the EHR system for less than $25,000 for the first physician in a practice, and $10,000 for each additional physician. This price structure is roughly 50% of the price of available EHRs on the market today.
Health Populi’s Hot Points: Just as Wal-Mart has disrupted other market segments — toys, electronics, and discount retail — they could do the same with electronic health records. Whither Cerner, EPIC, Misys, Siemens, and a hundred other vendors? Most EHR vendors have had a difficult time penetrating the small physician office — which is a huge percentage of practicing doctors.
By the end of 2008, there were 602 Sam’s Clubs operating in the U.S., and up to 20 new locations will be added in 2009. That’s tremendous coverage reaching doctors in small practices who’ve yet to adopt an EHR.
This venture comes on the heels of ARRA’s incentive plan for providers to adopt EHRs by 2012. The timing of this project can clearly capitalize on the Federal program, which provides payments to those physicians and hospitals who are “meaningfully using” health IT in practice in 2012 and beyond.
With this move, Wal-Mart further vertically integrates itself as a health care company with strong performance in health and beauty aisles, a national chain of pharmacies offering $4 generic prescriptions to dollar-stretched consumers, pharmacy benefits counsel, primary care clinics, optometry departments, and The Center for Innovation in Health Care Logistics at the University of Arkansas.
This round of Wal-Mart’s health reinvention reaches beyond the retail consumer segment to physicians. The wild card question is how physicians will respond to a 50%-discounted Wal-Mart private label EHR that’s co-branded with Dell and eClinical Works.
I’ve no doubt there will be more health-related programs that continue to grow and solidify Wal-Mart’s role in U.S. health and health care. It only makes sense for the nation’s largest company to be a supplier to nation’s largest industry.