Thursday, April 26, 2007


Wal-Mart's Healthcare Trojan Horse

This week Wal-Mart announced that it will significantly expand a program to operate in-store health clinics that it began a couple of years ago. About 80 in-store clinics currently provide routine care for simple non-emergency problems like sore throats and ear aches. They are operated by third-party medical providers who rent space in a Wal-Mart store, just as you often see banks, fast food franchises, and post offices offering services that complement superstore shopping.

Wal-Mart plans to open another few hundred clinics in the next two or three years, and "if current market forces continue, up to 2000 clinics could be in stores in the next five to seven years" -- that's about half of the number of stores that Wal-Mart currently has in the US. Of course Wal-Mart keeps opening stores, but nonetheless, you can easily see that if every second or third Wal-Mart has a clinic it will substantially change the way that people get routine health care.

I don't shop much at Wal-Mart, and I didn't know about the in-store health clinics. But now another Wal-Mart initiative from late last year makes a lot more sense. In "Big Employers Plan Electronic Health Records" they announced along with Intel, BP, and other big employers (between them they have millions of employees) a plan to create an electronic health record standard and store records in a multimillion-dollar-data warehouse linking hospitals, doctors and pharmacies. Wal-Mart's huge purchasing power will drive costs down and mandate the use of bar codes, RFID, and other technologies that improve the end-to-end efficiency of the "healthcare supply chain." So Wal-Mart's gazillion customers as well as its employees (and many of Intel's etc.) will eventually be brought into the EHR system, and the in-store clinics are the perfect "Trojan Horse" to make that happen naturally and painlessly. We might actually end up with a semi-efficient healthcare delivery system in this country thanks to Wal-Mart.

-Bob Glushko

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Talking with Jon Udell about "Information and Service Design" at Berkeley

This past week my UC Berkeley School of Information colleague (and Dean) AnnaLee Saxenian and I did a phone interview with Jon Udell for his "IT Conversations" podcast series. We mostly talked about the new Information and Services Design program. In particular, we discussed the papers and presentations that our graduate students gave at the March 2 Symposium that marked the "birthday party" for the ISD program.

(Jon, like you, is one of the millions of people who avidly read my blog, and that’s how he learned about this…)

I just listened to the podcast, and it is remarkable how much interesting discussion is crammed into a half-hour interview. Jon really did his homework watching the webcast of the Symposium in preparing for our interview because he specifically commented about a half dozen or so of the 11 presentations, and we talked quite a bit about these:

Elizabeth Goodman, "Destination Services: Tourist Media and Networked Places"

Saud Al Shamsi, "Service Quality in the Physical and Virtual Marketplace"

Andrea Moed, "Generative Logging: Product Information Histories as Drivers of Service Ecologies"

Lindsay Tabas, "Developing a New Services Design Methodology"

Listening to the podcast reminded ne how unique our school is, and how personally and professionally enriching it has been the last year or so working with Anno and others to develop our new course on the Information and Services Economy (which I sometimes describe as "from Adam Smith and Karl Marx to web services"), putting on a weekly Service Science lecture series (for which Jon Udell is an upcoming speaker on May 1), and getting this new ISD program off the ground.

We’ve got a great "intellectual mash-up" going on with "service science" here at UC Berkeley, and if I weren’t already part of it, listening to this podcast would make me want to join it.

-Bob Glushko

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