Wal-Mart to Offer Low-Cost Digital Health Records Package

Wal-Mart has joined Google, Microsoft, and other companies angling to get a piece of the digital health records market.

The retailer plans to bring its low-cost, high-volume mentality to the healthcare industry by offering a deal that includes hardware, software, installation, maintenance and training to convert a doctor's office from using paper to digital medical records.

Wal-Mart has experience in this area. It operates a prescription program and an online pharmacy, and in January, the company launched an internal e-health initiative. The program allows more than 1.4 million Wal-Mart employees to access their personal health records online.

The company will have several potential competitors. Google, GE, and Microsoft have all announced products and services relating to the digital health records space.

President Barack Obama's US$19 billion dollar allocation in the stimulus package to digitize electronic medical records has many companies racing to be viable players. There may also be incentives of $40,000 per physician to install and use digital health records, The New York Times reports.

During last year's presidential campaign, Obama promised to digitize every health record in the country by 2012. What remains to be seen is whether the transformation can take place in three years and how much it will save in the long run.

There is also a question of how much it will cost. CNN.com reported that independent studies from Harvard, RAND and the Commonwealth Fund found a national health records system will cost anywhere from $75 billion to $100 billion over the next ten years.

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