Wal-Mart, over the last few years has been aggressively moving into the healthcare market with one of its first big moves being the selling of some generics for $4/prescription. In an investor call last month, Wal-Mart went further hinting that it wishes to enter the pharmaceutical benefits management (PBM) market. A couple of good posts on the implications of this move can be found here, and here.
And more recently I reported the modest roll-out of the Dossia Personal Health System (PHS) among some 20 Wal-Mart employees.
Now, Wal-Mart has sent another signal to the market. It is common knowledge that Wal-Mart is establishing retail clinics in its stores. Wal-Mart is also forming partnerships with healthcare clinic operators for these in-store, retail clinics. What is new is that in this morning’s Wall Street Journal, in an ever so brief article, Wal-Mart stated that it will mandate that all retail clinics use the same electronic medical records (EMR) system from eClinicalWorks. With Wal-Mart projecting some 2,000 retail clinics by 2014, (currently according te the WSJ there are ~55 in operation) this is certainly a big win for eClinicalWorks. Hopefully, those projected new clinics won’t suffer the same fate as the 23 that recently shut-down within Wal-Mart.
But what will be even more interesting, at least from my vantage point, is to see how eClinicalWorks will inter-operate with the Dossia platform. It is virtually a foregone conclusion that these two systems will have to inter-operate at some level to serve Wal-Mart employees that are using Dossia and the convenience of Wal-Mart’s clinics.
And beyond Wal-Mart employees, might Dossia also become a platform for Wal-Mart retail clinic customers?
That is a tough question to answer for as of today, Dossia is being supported and built by a consortium of like-minded large employers that are looking to serve their employees. Beyond these employees, Dossia has made no commitments to serve the broader public, i.e., Wal-Mart’s clinic customers. This may provide an opportunity for Microsoft’s HealthVault or Google Health to enter. It will be important, therefore, to follow eClinicalWorks own PRs for any signals that may portend what PHR/PHS a Wal-Mart customer may be offered.