business

Costco begins selling EMRs

The discount warehouse's offer follows an unsuccessful attempt by Sam's Club to enter the practice management market.

By — Posted Dec. 15, 2011

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Physicians with memberships at Costco discount warehouse stores can now pick up some technology for the office.

Costco has partnered with Etransmedia Technology to sell Allscripts MyWay EHR and practice management systems at Costco stores nationally. The store hopes physicians looking to collect incentive money for meaningful use of electronic medical records will take advantage of the deal.

Costco executive members can implement the integrated EMR/practice management system for $499 a month. For nonexecutive members, the price is $599 a month. The pricing is based on a 60-month contract, according to costcoehr.com, a website Etransmedia launched to promote the deal.

The Allscripts MyWay system offered by Costco is an integrated, Web-based EMR and practice management solution that includes e-prescribing, electronic claims and a patient portal. The monthly fee includes maintenance, support and hosting as well as online training. Allscripts advertises the EMR and PM systems separately on its website for $375 and $225, respectively, per full-time physician, per month.

Costco is not offering a deep discount for the systems, but the company said it is "simplifying the buying process" by offering a product it "carefully" selected.

Although the company has been known to offer products not usually sold at retail stores -- it made headlines in 2004 for going into the casket market, for example -- Costco isn't the first discount warehouse to offer an EMR system.

Walmart Stores Inc. entered a similar arrangement with eClinical Works and Dell in 2009 to sell a bundled EMR/computer package at its Sam's Club warehouse stores. Despite what the company said was a "very positive" initial response, it discontinued the offer only months after it launched.

"Due to difficulties in sustaining resources to meet the high-touch customization and hands-on technical service required to implement the package, and trends in physician offices folding into local hospital systems that then have a turnkey product for their practices, the eCw program at Sam's Club effectively ended about two years ago," Sam's Club spokeswoman Carrie Foster said in an emailed statement to American Medical News.

However, Costco is undeterred by its competitor's experience.

"We took our time in researching the [EMR/PM] industry in an effort to help bring value and simplify the decision process for Costco members owning or operating a medical practice," John Conlon, Costco's director of the EMR/PM service, said in a prepared statement. "We want our members to keep as much of the $44,000 in stimulus funds for the business as possible."

Millennium Research Group said in its November report, "U.S. Markets for Electronic Medical Records 2012," that the U.S. market for EMRs will exceed $8 billion by 2016, with the fastest-growing segment occurring in the small-practice market. Web-based EMRs that don't require an expensive information technology infrastructure are contributing to the growth, the report said, because they are an affordable option for small practices on tight budgets.

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