Wal-Mart targets SMB Healthcare market with electronic health record (EHR) solution

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Mar 13, 2009

Earlier this week, Wal-Mart announced its intentions to enter the electronic health record (EHR) marketplace. Unlike most providers in this space, Wal-Mart is attacking the smallest healthcare practices through a collaboration between its Sam’s Club division, Dell, and private software firm eClinicalWorks.

We’ve been talking quite a bit about the electronic health record (EHR) trend recently, especially in light of President Obama’s commitment to invest heavily in this area. Although Wal-Mart claims it has done work in this market in the past, there’s no doubt in my mind that the company is banking (pun intended) on big government dollars to support its effort this time around — hence, the recent PR moves. In any case, Sam’s Club’s 200,000-strong membership from healthcare providers (e.g. doctors) will certainly help in marketing this new offering.

For those that are interested in the EHR space, check out my earlier posts here and here that include some interesting research results and component technology information. Relative Wal-Mart,  it’s worth considering that 91% of practices with 1-3 physicians have no EHR system. Although this figure drops to 86% and 77% for practices with 4-5 and 6-10 physicians, respectively, there is clearly plenty of room for adoption and growth .

The complete package includes a Dell PC — generally, a tablet-based model– and a subscription to the eClinicalWorks Software-as-a-Service offering. The hosted model is critical, since up-front capital and IT requirements for small healthcare providers are likely enormous obstacles. Pricing details indicate costs of under $25k for the first physician in a practice; $10k for each additional physician; and $4.5-6k per year in maintenance.

What’s most interesting about this agreement is Wal-Mart’s sole role as sales channel and marketer. This example of “solution virtualization” is an on-going trend, and NDS clients can read about it in the recently-published 2009 Road Map (login required). Like Virgin Mobile or Boost Mobile in the cell phone industry, Wal-Mart is leveraging others’ infrastructure and products but supplying the key aspects of customer demand and rapport. This raises the ever-important question: are YOU leveraging all possible sales channels?

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