Large Employers To Launch EHR Plan
Wal-Mart Stores, Intel, British Petroleum and other companies next week will announce a plan to provide and promote usage of portable electronic health records for their employees, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Last summer at the request of CDC, Wal-Mart and Intel joined together on the plan after meeting separately with the agency to discuss individual company efforts to reduce health costs. According to the Journal, the goal of the collaboration is to reduce health spending by having patients coordinate their own health care among hospitals, pharmacies and physicians.
The EHRs, which will be stored in a multimillion-dollar data warehouse, will be interoperable and routinely updated. Eventually, about 10 employers will collaborate on the plan, and each will contribute $1.5 million for the initiative. The companies maintain that portable EHRs will allow employees and insurers to evaluate price- and quality-performance data from millions of employees, as well as reduce medical errors, duplication of tests and administrative overhead.
In addition, physicians could use the records to measure the effectiveness of different treatments for groups of patients with chronic illnesses. The companies plan to use market pressure and incentives to encourage physicians and hospitals to participate in the program.
According to the Journal, the "employers will insist that health care providers adopt electronic records and prescribing as a condition for future business." Wal-Mart will use its purchasing power to put bar codes on products intended for use in hospitals and clinics. The companies also expect employees to select physicians who are willing to use and update their records, although employee participation is not mandatory, according to the Journal.
Meanwhile, the Patient Privacy Rights Foundation is discouraging employers from participating in the initiative until adequate privacy protections are put in place (McWilliams, Wall Street Journal, 11/29).