Be Skeptical About Health IT Research Reports

Look, I get it. While advice from colleagues is fine, it’s even better to have an objective research organization tell you which vendors dominate the market and which seem to have a lot of fans.

You know some of the headlines, in big bold letters: “Epic has the biggest EMR market share in the US” or “Doctors are very satisfied with eClinicalWorks.” Hey, if nothing else, you can wave the report in your boss’ face if your new system doesn’t work out.

The thing is, are you getting valuable, fair, unbiased feedback from research vendors? Not necessarily.

  • Pay for play: Some research firms are getting paid to promote certain products or organizations in their reports and client notes. The payment can be as subtle as a few introductions to potential customers or a straight up bundle of cash. Sadly, not all analyst firms who engage in this practice will tell you that they do.
  • Lack of experience: While some research reports are written by senior people with a long institutional memory, sometimes they are farmed out to junior staff members with a lot less perspective. I’m not suggesting that the younger people get it wrong, but they simply can’t offer the kind of insight senior people can.
  • Beauty contests: Be warned: sometimes reports are just not about you. It may appear, on the surface, that the research firm is offering you valuable insights, but the truth is that the research isn’t that substantial. In cases like these, the firms simply line up all the vendors in a row and rate them on scales they basically make up in their head.
  • Value of the data: Sure, it’s sort of fun and interesting to know whether Epic has nudged out Cerner or MEDITECH in the battle for US market share. It’s something to share over the health IT water cooler. And it seems to give you a sense of which vendors are offering the most value. But does it really? In most case, it probably isn’t that helpful to track market share unless you hold stock in one of these companies.

For what it’s worth, I’ve written several in-depth research reports of my own, and I feel pretty good about the industry analysis I did. But thankfully, none of the publishers suggested that I was the Oracle of truth. I simply gathered up a pile the facts and tried to fit them together.

In saying all this, I’m not suggesting that health IT industry research is a waste of time. If a report offers context, input from your peers and no-nonsense answers to questions you have, it may well be worth the price. But don’t let one of these firms sell you a bunch of hot air.


About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

1 Comment

  • In today’s world of “fake news”, the prudent course of action re survey taking is to conduct your own surveys.

    Except that these take a lot of time and cost a lot of money. And, unless you are proficient at designing objective questionnaires, you may, despite the best of intentions, end up inadvertently generating biased data.

    So, we tend to rely on “research organizations”, but no easy way to know the bias caused by “pay to play” or other influences.

    Besides, unless the respondents (never mind who is conducting a survey) have had extensive experience with at least two EMRs, what does “satisfied” or “very satisfied” mean?

    Do the respondents actually know what they need, and do they actually know what they could achieve with a “good” EMR in the areas of efficiency and effectiveness?

    Incentive programs (you know the ones I am referring to) that forced providers to focus on collecting data for long term outcomes assessment purposes had the unfortunate consequence of consolidating the healthcare software industry and transforming healthcare professionals into “data trolls”.

    One thing you can bank on is any EMR on the market today where the core database technology was designed in the 1960’s and where the EMR was designed without attention to end-user workflow and workload management is not going to help you to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

    The terms of reference, by the way, for the “management of work” (i.e. work in general whether it is performed by people, machines, or robots) have been spelled out by many authors/industry experts.
    You can read up on “Work, workflow, workload and BPM” at

    If you suffer from insomnia and are looking for an instant cure, see “How Low Can You Go” (i.e. minimum requirements for achieving operational efficiency and effectiveness using various easy-to-embrace methods and platforms), in four parts, at

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