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Wal-Mart contributes $1M to health IT research


BENTONVILLE, Ark.--Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is putting up $1 million in seed money to create a research center dedicated to improving the health care system through information technology.

According to a company statement, the Center for Innovation in Health Care Logistics will conduct research aimed at identifying and addressing gaps and barriers in the application and delivery of health IT, as well as highlight and replicate proven applications that already are helping patients and providers.

It is believed the center's work will help lower health care costs by improved efficiency as well as help to eliminate medical errors that occur from wasteful and unreliable practices in health care supply networks, the statement said.

Creation of the center was announced at a Rogers, Ark., meeting of business, IT and health leaders hosted by the nation's largest retailer this week.

Wal-Mart Vice Chairman John Menzer said the need for better health care IT was highlighted by the confusion that followed Hurricane Katrina.

"Medical records, property records, court records were lost. Entire family histories--medical, cultural and otherwise--were gone in an instant, and the entire region is still recovering from this massive loss of information," Mr. Menzer said during the health IT summit.

As the lead strategic partner, Wal-Mart has agreed to give the center $1 million over five years. The University of Arkansas and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arkansas, Alabama and Illinois have joined Wal-Mart as partners. The center also plans to raise funding for research and demonstration projects from other members of the business community, governmental agencies and nonprofit foundations.

Before this, Wal-Mart made at least two other investments in health care IT. It is one of a group of employers funding Dossia, a nonprofit organization that will develop a framework for electronic personal health records. It also is providing $5 million in funding over three years to help build the nation's first state-of-the-art digital hospital in the retailer's home town of Bentonville, Ark.