A convenient-care facility known as "The Clinic at Wal-Mart, owned and operated by St. Vincent Health System" is expected to open in Little Rock, Ark., by the end of April and will be the first of some 400 co-branded retail clinics that Wal-Mart expects to open by 2010. Potentially, what this could also mean is that there will be at least 400 more medical facilities in the country using electronic medical records.
"All of our members use electronic medical records," said Tine Hansen-Turton, executive director of the Convenient Care Association trade group. "That is a cornerstone of our business model."
She added that using EMRs is one of the 10 standards her organization has developed for retail clinics, but one of the challenges these clinics face is sharing patients' medical information with primary-care doctors who may still rely on paper records. In most of these cases, Hansen-Turton said the clinics use faxes to share the information.
A letter of intent has also been signed between Wal-Mart and the Houston-based retail clinic operator, RediClinic, to open in-store clinics at 200 Wal-Mart Supercenters. The chief executive officer of RediClinic is Web Golinkin, who is also currently serving as the president of the Convenient Care Association, so it is expected that the Wal-Mart clinics will use EMRs.
Wal-Mart signed another letter of intent to operate four of these facilities in Little Rock with the two-hospital St. Vincent, which is affiliated with Catholic Health Initiatives. It was also announced that, by the end of April, a facility branded "The Clinic at Wal-Mart owned and operated by RediClinic" will open in association with a local Atlanta hospital system, andby this summerWal-Mart expects to open co-branded clinics with RediClinic and a local hospital system in Dallas, according to a news release.
American Academy of Family Physicians President Jim King said EMRs are one of the "desired attributes" that the AAFP developed for retail clinics, and although widespread, King said he didn't think EMR use was universal at these facilities. According to King, about 37% of family physicians have EMRs and 13% said they plan to implement a system this year.
King, who practices in Selmer, Tenn., added thathaving an EMR by itselfwill only do so much to improve quality.
"If you have an EMR in your office, you have an EMR in your office," King said. "What we hope will happen with the influence of these retail clinics is that it will push forward connectivity and make it less expensive and easier to connect (physicians') EMRs to hospitals and pharmacies."