EMRs at Sam’s Club

I have to say I’m bemused but somehow not surprised about the news that Wal-Mart Stores will sell EMRs at Sam’s Club warehouse locations.

Yes, the Bentonville, Ark., retail giant is joining with ambulatory EMR vendor eClinicalWorks and computer-maker Dell to sell systems at deeply discounted prices, reportedly less than $25,000 for the first physician and around $10,000 for each additional doctor in a practice. Maintenance and support will run about $4,000 to $6,500 a year, the New York Times reports.

Snicker, perhaps, but remember that the warehouse clubs offer a bit of everything. Sam’s Club rival Costco Wholesale sells caskets, after all. (Just don’t bundle those with EMRs. It might send the wrong message.) And remember that Wal-Mart has been talking about improving the quality of care and reducing healthcare costs with IT for several years and is one of the founding sponsors of the Dossia PHR project. I posted a podcast with Wal-Mart executive Linda Dillman in October 2006.

Wal-Mart already has a strong business in retail clinics and eClinicalWorks has a history of making creative business deals, such as with the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. So yeah, it makes sense. Whether doctors will shop for EMRs while picking up 5-pound jars of pickles and jumbo packs of toilet paper, we’ll have to see.