Coalition Including Intel And Wal-Mart Plan Electronic Medical Records For Employees

Dec 4, 2006 12:05 AM By J. Nicholas Hoover, InformationWeek

They see the tools as one way to try to get rising U.S. health care costs under control.

Intel chairman Craig Barrett has preached for years how critical it is to use IT to transform the health care industry. Wal-Mart’s Linda Dillman this year switched from CIO to an executive role that involves improving the company’s employee health care programs. Now their two companies, along with Pitney Bowes, British Petroleum, and others, plan to create a massive data warehouse that could eventually give all their employees online access to their personal health records.

The warehouse project, expected to be announced this week, will let employees access integrated data from medical claims and care providers, and likely information they enter about their medical histories. The goal is to let employees compare costs, availability of services, and to some extent performance across care providers, putting more power into their hands.   

The initiative may also include the ability to fill prescriptions electronically and advise patients on how to stay healthy. Some patient record systems already in use, including those offered by WebMD, bring in quality-of-care data so patients can compare, for example, mortality rates, complication rates, and lengths of stay for certain procedures across hospitals.

For the companies involved, the main goal is to rein in expenses related to employee medical coverage. Those layouts next year will rise 6%, HR consulting firm Towers Perrin estimates, while inflation is running around 2.4% this year. Employers will pay 58% more and employees 81% more next year for U.S. health care than they did in 2002, Towers Perrin says. Intel will spend about $1 billion on employee health care this year.