Doctors shopping at Wal-Mart!

So it looks like Wal-Mart is jumping into the electronic medical records business in concert with Dell and eClinicalWorks. From reading what I could find around the ‘net, it doesn’t look like Wal-Mart is adding any value to the resultant product other than their prodigious marketing footprint. The proposed pricing structure is very un-Wal-Martlike as well.

Being in the EMR/EHR business myself, it’s encouraging to see the retailer everyone loves to hate jumping into the business. If Sams Club is getting in, there must be tons of money involved. One has to wonder if having the Wal-Mart name attached to an expensive product is an advantage considering the clientele. We have a superstore nearby, and I rarely see too many AMG Benzes parked out front.

We’ll see more and more partnership deals like this popping out of the woodwork over the next weeks and months as the details of the HITECH initiative surface and congeal. Having just returned from the American Academy of Dermatology conference (in chilly San Francisco), I am aware of the confusion and the anticipation surrounding the plan. Nearly every doctor that approached us about our electronic medical records system asked about two things; the e-prescribing ‘spiff’ from Medicare and how much money would be available to them under the HITECH thing.

Much of the misinformation revolves around who is eligible for additional e-prescribing related payments (NOT everybody) and who is responsible for certifying EMRs for consideration (NOT CCHIT yet). A lot of it was being dispensed, naturally enough, by EMR vendors touting their CCHIT certification. Ironically, considering the venue, CCHIT does not have a certification that is dermatology specific, although one is in the planning stages.

It will be an exciting year for EMR vendors like ourselves, although we’re hoping that small firms like ours that ‘specialize in specialties’ won’t be squeezed out of the mix or priced out of the certification process by a federal mandate.

Witness what’s happening to the hospice business as an example of a federal misstep in this regard. Medicare has essentially been working to eliminate hospice payments after a certain period of time, which will effectively knock smaller hospice agencies out of business if they keep their dying clientele on their rolls too long. Certainly this is more Draconian than anything in the HITECH proposition (so far at least), but once the politicians and lobbyists are involved it seems like it always goes in that direction. There’s too much money on (and under) the table for this initiative to not attract the attention of the usual suspects.