Thursday, April 02, 2009

Electronic Medical Records and Wal-Mart?

Every week, I receive emails asking me to review a product, comment on an article, or react to something happening in the world of health care. From nursing to union organizing, the requests come in fairly regularly.

Not long ago, I was asked by a website called Software Advice (who offer free advice on software to consumers) to examine a new partnership between Wal-Mart and eClinicalWorks. It seems that Wal-Mart, in its infinite wisdom (or lack thereof) has decided to go into the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) business, partnering with eClinicalWorks to sell a $25,000 software and hardware package to physicians at Sam's Club outlets.

In terms of EMRs, I'm no expert, and while I have used a number of EMRs that were variable in quality and usability, I cannot speak to the quality or usability of eClinicalWorks' products. However, as a consumer, I know that I have never set foot in a Wal-Mart due to the fact that I am staunchly opposed to Wal-Mart's labor practices, their dumbed down sales pitch, and their ubiquitous ability to sap the life out of local business wherever they pitch their (ever enlarging) tent.

The article by Software Advice about these unlikely bedfellows makes a good point that "team members" at Sams Club and Wal-Mart outlets will no doubt be woefully inadequate in their ability to provide adequate information to potential buyers of this software, and physicians who suffer buyer's remorse after taking home their new acquisition may rue the day they set foot in Wal-Mart to buy toilet paper and subsequently walked out with an EMR they didn't know they needed.

The Software Advice writers seem to feel that eClinicalWorks' software is a quality product that can deliver the goods, and I have no qualm with that opinion. But when it comes to Wal-Mart sticking their noses into such a specialized area of health care delivery, my squeamishness meter goes through the roof.

Good luck to eClinialWorks as they partner with a wholesale behometh that has basically co-opted the local store in towns from Canada to Mexico and beyond. Many readers of Digital Doorway most likely are already aware of my disdain for such companies as Wal-Mart, and if I were a doctor shopping for an EMR, I would certainly not plunk down my credit card for a $25K investment sponsored by a retail giant whose reach is already far too long. In the words of someone famous and dead, caveat emptor!
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