Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wal-Mart to enter electronic medical records business

As the Obama administration begins investing billions in health information technology, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to use its unrivaled size to bring high-tech medical records to U.S. physicians. In recent years Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, has used its buying power to move into healthcare markets, negotiating steep discounts for prescription drugs and eye care products.

With the government providing $17 billion of stimulus funding to encourage use of electronic medical records, the company sees an opportunity to serve as a low-cost, one-stop option for doctors and small practices. A Wal-Mart spokesperson said Wednesday the company was partnering with computer giant Dell Inc. and software maker eClinicalWorks to launch a bundled electronic health records package for doctors, including installation and maintenance. The program will be offered through the company's Sam's Club discount-warehouse division, which caters to small businesses. A formal launch is expected this spring.

Improving the nation's health information technology has been a rallying cry in Washington for years. Advocates say replacing paper files could reduce costly medical errors and duplicative testing. But after nearly a decade of promotion, there have been few gains to show for the technology.
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