Unless they’re monumentally important, I generally don’t regurgitate the theories researchers develop about health IT. But this time I’m changing strategies. While their analysis may not fit in the “earth shattering” category, I thought their list of factors that will shape 2018’s EMR market was dead on, so here it is.
According to a report created by analyst firm Kalorama Research, a number of trends are brewing which could make next year a particularly, well, interesting one for EMR vendors. (By the by, the allegedly Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times” probably wasn’t Chinese in origin — it seems to have been minted in the 19th century by a British politician named Joseph Chamberlain. But I digress.)
According to Kalorama publisher Bruce Carlton, many forces are converging, including:
- Frustrated physicians: Physician rage over clunky EMRs may boil over next year. No one vendor seems positioned to scoop up their business, but of course many will try.
- Hospital EMR switches: While hospitals have been switching out EMRs for quite some time, defections may climb to new levels. Their main objective: Improve workflows.
- Emerging technologies: Trendy approaches like dashboarding, blockchain and advanced big data analytics will begin to be integrated with existing EMR technologies. Or as the report notes, “the Old EMR doesn’t cut it anymore.”
- IT staff shortages: It takes a pretty seasoned IT pro to run an EMR, but they’re hard to find, especially if you want them to have a lot of relevant experience. But without their expertise, provider organizations may not get the most out of their systems. This may spell opportunity for vendors offering better service, the report says.
- Breach of the day: With each cybersecurity breach, EMRs get negative coverage, and the effects of this bad PR are accreting. Tales of ransomware, a particularly lurid form of cybercrime, are only making things worse.
- Many EMR vendors remain: Despite a barrage of M&A activity in the sector, there are still over 1,000 vendors in the EMR space, Kalorama notes. In other words, competition for EMR customers will still be brisk, particularly given that no one vendor – even giants like Cerner and Epic – owns more than one-fifth of the market (This assertion comes from firm’s own market estimates.)
- New Administration, new goals: To date the White House hasn’t proposed specific changes to health IT policy, but one clue comes from the appointment of an HHS Secretary who dislikes the meaningful use program. Anything could happen here.
In addition to the factors cited by Kalorama, I’d suggest one other trend to consider. As I’ve noted above, Kalorama argues that customers will demand EMRs that incorporate sexy new technologies, perhaps more so than in the past. I’d go further with this projection. From what I’m hearing, a consensus is emerging that EMR architectures must be completely deconstructed and rethought for today’s data.
With important data flows emerging from wearables, apps, remote monitoring devices and the like, it may not makes sense to put a big database at the center of the EMR platform anymore. After all, what’s the point of setting up an enterprise EMR as the ultimate source of truth if so much important data is being generated by mobile devices at the network edge?
Anyway, that’s my two cents, along with Kalorama’s predictions. What do you think 2018 will look like for EMR vendors, and why?