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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.

March 12, 2009 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Tasteless joke, but kind of on the mark

Since it’s Thanksgiving here in the states, you’d rather laugh than work, right? In case anyone was wondering if the Wal-Mart retail clinic idea is getting any traction, here’s a joke from an e-mail recently forwarded to me. (File this under clinical decision support.):

One day, in line at the company cafeteria, Joe says to Mike behind him, “My elbow hurts like hell. I guess I’d better see a doctor.”

“Listen, you don’t have to spend that kind of money,” Mike replies.

“There’s a diagnostic computer down at Wal-Mart. Just give it a urine sample and the computer will tell you what’s wrong and what to do about it.

It takes 10 seconds and costs $10 — A lot cheaper than a doctor.”

So, Joe deposits a urine sample in a small jar and takes it to Wal-Mart. He deposits $10, and the computer lights up and asks for the urine sample. He pours the sample into the slot and waits.

Ten seconds later, the computer ejects a printout:

“You have tennis elbow. Soak your arm in warm water and avoid heavy activity. It will improve in two weeks. Thank you for shopping @ Wal-Mart.”

That evening, while thinking how amazing this new technology was, Joe began wondering if the computer could be fooled.

He mixed some tap water, a stool sample from his dog, urine samples from his wife and daughter, and a sperm sample for good measure.

Joe hurries back to Wal-Mart, eager to check the results. He deposits $10, pours in his concoction, and awaits the results.

The computer prints the following:
1. Your tap water is too hard. Get a water softener. (Aisle 9)
2. Your dog has ringworm. Bathe him with anti-fungal shampoo. (Aisle 7)
3. Your daughter has a cocaine habit. Get her into rehab.
4. Your wife is pregnant. Twins. They aren’t yours. Get a lawyer.
5. If you don’t stop playing with yourself, your elbow will never get better!
Thank you for shopping @ Wal-Mart.

November 21, 2007 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Video HITs, cartoon style

I guess it was inevitable, with all the health 2.0 efforts that have come out of the woodwork of late, but the people behind HIT Transition, namely Martin Jensen and Michael Christopher, have had a beta launch of The Health IT Channel, otherwise known as HITCHtv. There are only two videos posted so far (both hosted on YouTube and embedded on the HITCHtv site), but the first seems like it required a bit of effort.

It’s an animated swipe at Microsoft‘s new HealthVault, the product that seemingly everyone but the Redmond Empire itself is calling a personal health record. Without naming names, the parody also makes fun of Dr. Deborah Peel and her Patient Privacy Rights Foundation for endorsing HealthVault.

OK, so Jensen does name Peel in a HIT Transition blog post that explains what he thinks is wrong with HealthVault. Kudos for not hiding behind the shield of anonymity. I’ll add HITCHtv to my blogroll.

In the other video posted so far, Jensen comments on the threat that Wal-Mart poses to traditional healthcare delivery methods. Commentary is fine. Parody is better. Do they have the budget for more cartoons? This 37-year-old fan of Adult Swim sure hopes so.

October 14, 2007 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.