The top global retailer says in a company-issued statement it is "committed to bringing about solutions to some of the most pressing healthcare challenges facing America's working families," and it's making electronic health records (EHR) a key component of their strategy. Wal-Mart partnered with a number of industry leading corporations that share a common vision of bringing efficiency and transparency to the U.S. healthcare system, including Intel, BP America, Pitney Bowes, Allied Materials, AT&T, sanofi-aventis and Cardinal Health.
The result of this collaboration is a consortium called the Dossia Founders Group, an independent, non-profit infrastructure for gathering and securely storing electronic health information for the employees of member companies, their dependents, retirees and others in their communities. The Web-based Dossia network is funded by these companies and gathers health data from multiple sources at the request of its completely voluntary employee-members and other eligible individuals. The system is based on the Indivo open-architecture system and stores data in a decentralized database that is continually updated and available to members for life - even if they change employers, health plans or physicians.
In addition to full portability, the system supports multiple personal health applications and allows users to organize and summarize their information in ways that are most useful to them. The records are accessible only by the individual or others to whom the individual has granted permission; employers will not have access to their employees' personal health records.
Dossia is hosted by an independent not-for-profit institute that acts as a barrier between employee data and outside parties, including the founding employers of Dossia. In the initial stage of the program, founding members' employees (currently totaling approximately 2.5 million U.S. healthcare consumers) have access to the web-based service. Eventually, however, an expansion is planned that will include more healthcare consumers.
Wal-Mart plans to have an EHR available to every one of its associates and their families, including retirees, by the end of 2010. In a company statement, Wal-Mart says "Electronic health records can help reduce administrative costs in the healthcare system and eliminate the medical errors that cause thousands of unnecessary deaths every year. For our associates, electronic health records will provide a safe and secure way to hold on to and access their medical information." But the eligible volunteers of Dossia won't be the only ones who benefit from the growing trend of EHR adoption by non-healthcare sector corporations. Wal-Mart is also implementing the EHR software at all of its in-store clinics, in addition to hundreds of new, co-branded clinics it has planned, the first of which is scheduled to open this month in Little Rock, Ark.
Currently, the retailer is leasing space to eight independent walk-in clinic operators and two hospital systems, North Broward Hospital District, in Florida, and Aurora Health, Wisconsin. Together, these healthcare providers are operating approximately 55 clinics in Wal-Mart stores in 12 states. As part of its "The Clinic at Wal-Mart" branding strategy, the retailer is requiring these operators to use EHR and practice management software from privately owned health IT vendor eClinicalWorks. The in-store clinic expansion effort also includes rebranding the existing clinics and the opening of more than 2,000 additional clinics nationwide by 2014. Clinic operator RediClinic LLC formed an agreement along with local hospital systems to open 200 of the co-branded walk-in clinics in Wal-Mart Supercenters in Atlanta, Little Rock, Ark., and Dallas.
The Clinics at Wal-Mart will offer a set of limited care services, operate seven days a week and feature consistent interior and exterior design elements, including prominent signage that displays pricing for the services and treatments offered - another stipulation for clinic operators. In a company statement, the retailer says, "We believe these clinics will enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of our healthcare system." Operating on a common electronic medical records platform will create "standard electronic records" for its patients, the company says, which will be accessible at any Wal-Mart clinic and eliminate the need for paper records.