The AMA, the federal government, and most insurance companies and HMOs have been arguing that storing and updating medical records digitally is much more efficient than having them on paper. The argument is compelling. Transferring files and billing are done more easily when data are set up electronically. For most doctors it makes records easier to store and update.
Wal-Mart has decided that it can help save the medical system from relying on paper and make money as part of the process.
According toThe New York Times, Wal Mart’s Sam’s Club outlets will offer digital medical systems. That paper says that “The Sam’s Club offering, to be made available this spring, will be under $25,000 for the first physician in a practice, and about $10,000 for each additional doctor.” Physicians are extraordinarily cheap, so the product may be a tough sale.
If the the new Administration’s goal is to upgrade the health care system, which would almost certainly involve overhauling it so that digital records are the norm, it will not be able to rely on $25,000 systems from Wal-Mart. The expense of practicing medicine is rising too fast due to malpractice and labor costs. Adding another big monthly bill to that is asking too much of most physicians.
If the government wants to turn the tracking of patient data from 19th Century practices to 21st Century technology, it might as well buy the new systems from Wal-Mart and give them away to the doctors who want them.
Douglas A. McIntyre