Wal-Mart Is Latest Proponent of Electronic Health Records

March 12, 2009

Wal-Mart says it is primed to offer small physicians' practices a package deal of electronic health records systems at a low cost.

Wal-Mart says it is primed to offer small physicians' practices a package deal including hardware, software, and installation of electronic health records systems at a low cost. Time to hop on the EHR train?

Wal-Mart is entering the healthcare business in interesting fashion. It is teaming with its Sam's Club subsidiary, eClinicalWorks and Dell to piece together a complete electronic health record system for physicians' practices. It is targeting smaller practices with this package because many of the nation's doctors work outside of hospitals and larger clinics.

What's included? Dell is offering its laptops and tablet PCs for physicians to use. eClinicalWorks will provide its electronic health record and practice management software. eClinicalWorks is an Internet-based service that also allows physicians to manage billing and registration online. Dell will install the hardware, while eClinicalWorks will be responsible for installing its software on the PCs, as well as for training and maintenance of the system. Wal-Mart is involved because it will use its buying powers to secure the lowest possible pricing for the packages.

"We're a high-volume, low-cost company," said Marcus Osborne, senior director for healthcare business development at Wal-Mart told the New York Times. "And I would argue that mentality is sorely lacking in the health care industry."

Speaking of pricing, what is all this going to cost?

A single physician can expect to pay $25,000 to get the system up and running, with annual support costs ranging between $4,000 and $6,500. Each additional physician in the same office will add $10,000 to the tab. The companies say this offering costs half that of competitive systems from other suppliers. That's good news for small practices.

Wal-Mart, Dell, and eClinicalWorks project that the system could save physicians up to $40,000 per year, depending on how they put it to use. If so, two physicians in the same practice could achieve ROI within the first year.

They didn't say exactly when the packages will be available for sale, but if you're interested, you can contact Wal-Mart, Dell, or eClinicalWorks for more information.