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$5k Per EHR Lab Interface

Posted on February 1, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

A provider organization recently reached out to me to discuss the issues they were having trying to get their EHR vendor to do a lab interface with their lab. It was a pretty standard large EHR vendor document where they nickle and dime you for little things like a lab interface. Looking at it always reminds me of when I’ve seen the $5 aspirin charge in the hospital.

The problem with the lab interface charge is that it’s usually $5000 instead of $5. When an organization is choosing to implement an EHR, they often forget about many of the future hidden costs associated with an EHR vendor like the EHR lab interface. Plus, they also forget that the EHR vendor will often charge them $5k for the interface and then the lab will charge them another $5k for that interface. This is often true even when an EHR vendor has created many interfaces with a particular lab vendor before.

In fact, the organization that I mentioned above brought a new light to the cost of lab interface. It turns out that this organization was on its third lab and thus its third lab interface with their EHR. I don’t expect clinics change labs this often, but it is very common for a medical organization to switch from one lab to another. Plus, let’s not even get started on the challenge of getting a hospital lab to integrate with your EHR.

Not all EHR vendors are like those I mention above. In fact, a number of EHR vendors have seen this as a great way to differentiate their EHR from other competing EHR vendors. I know of at least one EHR vendor that’s done a few hundred lab interfaces (all at no cost to the doctor). The large number of labs partially illustrates the challenge associated with lab interfaces. There are just so many of them that need to be done. It’s not like there’s 1 or 2 labs that dominate the market. However, many EHR vendors are offering a free lab interface as part of the EHR purchase. Be sure to ask before you buy.

The sad part of the lab interface story is that because of the items mentioned above, many doctors just end up scrapping a lab interface. They can’t justify a $10k expense to integrate their EHR with the lab. This is unfortunate, because it’s amazing how much benefit can come from a well integrated EHR Lab interface.

Meaningful Use the Commodity – Meaningful Use Monday

Posted on October 15, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I decided to take a step back this week for Meaningful Use Monday to look at where we are in the new world of health IT which includes the commonplace terms of EHR incentive money and meaningful use. Plus, I’m probably waxing a bit nostalgic today as I think about the David Brailer keynote at the Digital Health Conference today (follow my tweets on @ehrandhit for more coverage) where he spoke a bit about the origins of healthcare IT.

At this point it seems that meaningful use has become basically a commodity. There are very few EHR vendors out there now that aren’t certified EHR that can help a physician get to meaningful use (Although there are some non-certified EHR still). Basically, if you are doing EHR, then more than likely you are doing meaningful use. Or at least you’ll have that opportunity if you want. Some would argue that means that this result is a function of the meaningful use bar being set too low.

In fact, that is largely what the congressmen’s argument was in their letter to HHS about halting meaningful use. The real question is whether this is a problem. I personally don’t mind all the EHR competition. I think it would have been worse if the government incentive, meaningful use, and the RECs essentially narrowed the field of EHR vendors down to only a few.

The argument on the other side is around the “paradox of choice.” There’s little doubt that many practices are in a situation where there are so many EHR choices that they make the decision not to choose. However, I see this more as an excuse not to do EHR from people who didn’t really want to do EHR in the first place. I’m not sure these people would have been doing EHR even if there were only a few choices.

This does leave us with a challenging problem going forward. The EHR churn rate is going to go through the roof. David Brailer pointed this out today in his keynote and he’s right that it’s already happening today. Although, the majority of the EHR churn that’s happening now is from those organizations that are going after meaningful use. The major EHR churn rate of the future is going to come from EHR consolidation.

What does this all mean? Now more than ever, an organization needs to do good due diligence on the stability of the EHR software. Notice that I didn’t say EHR vendor. Just because you’re a large EHR vendor that’s financially stable doesn’t mean that the EHR software is safe (see Exhibit A and Exhibit B).

One thing is clear though, meaningful use and EHR are here to stay. There’s no escaping EHR. We’re finally back to the point where doctors are no longer asking if they should do EHR. Instead, they’re asking how, when and which EHR they should do. This is a very good industry trend.

EHR Incentive Inflates EHR Pricing

Posted on July 25, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

In a recent conversation I had, the question of EHR pricing came up. It was suggested in the conversation that EHR incentive money was inflating EHR pricing.

I wish that I had harder data on the price of EHR software. Unfortunately, there’s no really good source of EHR pricing across all the 600+ EHR comanies. At one point I considered the idea of creating such a resource, but the challenge of getting that type of information is ominous and might be impossible since many EHR vendors keep that information very close to the chest.

Since we don’t have the quantitative data that we’d love to have in this situation, instead let me offer some observational data on EMR pricing.

In my first couple years blogging about EMR software (I started EMR blogging 6+ years ago), I was able to witness a dramatic shift in the price of EHR software. The norm 6+ years ago was for an EMR for a small clinical practice to cost somewhere in the $30,000 range. For a larger group practice they were easily paying $100,000-200,000 for their EHR software. In almost every case this was a huge up front lump sum payment for the EHR software. Although, many of them conveniently offered financing for your purchase. These EHR were almost always an in house EMR software that needed a lot of up front costs for things like a server.

In those early years, we started to see a wave of mostly SaaS EHR software enter the market at a much lower price point. In most cases they were offering their EHR software for a small monthly fee (usually around $350-500/doctor). Of course at this same time a number of Free EHR software entered the market as well. Both of these entrances forced the price of EMR software to decrease dramatically. Sure, a few EMR software vendors pillaged a practice for an ourtrageous price, but for the most part the price of EMR software came down. Plus, the movement to the monthly charge pricing model for EMR software took hold. In most cases, EMR software vendors would offer a one time fee EMR pricing model along side a monthly per doctor EMR pricing model.

Over the past couple years I think we generally saw a leveling off of EMR pricing. However, I have seen one major thing happen with EMR pricing since the EHR stimulus money was introduced. The new bar for EMR pricing was set at $44k over 5 years. You can be certain that every EHR vendor has looked at their EHR pricing and compared it to the $44k over 5 years.

While I can’t say I’ve seen long time EHR vendors increase the price of their EHR to match the $44k of EHR incentive money, what I have seen is new EHR vendors pricing their EHR software accordingly. Instead of pricing their EHR according to market pricing, they’re generally inflating their EHR price to match the EHR incentive money. I believe this has driven the overall cost of EHR software up thanks to the EHR incentive money. Plus, it has held the EHR pricing of some EHR vendors higher than it would have been if the EHR incentive money weren’t there.

One other thing worth considering is the long term effect on EHR pricing because of the EHR incentive money. EHR incentive is creating an artificial pricing bubble, but eventually the incentive money will run out and I expect a number of EHR vendors to drop their price when that happens. However, what might have an even longer term impact on EHR pricing is the increased number of EHR vendors thanks to the EHR incentive money. Standard economics says more EHR competition leads to lower EHR prices.

What have you seen related to EMR pricing? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experience.

Meaningful Use EHR Breakout by Percentage

Posted on June 20, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’ve seen a bunch of different websites listing the top 10 EHR vendors based on physicians who attested to meaningful use using their EHR software. This list is certainly interesting and worthy of a discussion. However, I think it’s also important to put these numbers in some context. Remember that these numbers are just for the ambulatory EHR space. The Hospital EHR numbers are a different story which I’ll probably cover on Hospital EMR and EHR.

Here are the EHR incentive numbers by EHR vendor and also the percentage of meaningful use attestations they had (Thanks to Dr. Rowley for the numbers):

EHR Vendor MU Attestations Percentage
Epic 11075 23%
Allscripts 5743 12%
eCW 4057 8%
NextGen 2237 5%
GE 2002 4%
Athena 1733 4%
Greenway 1650 3%
Cerner 1375 3%
MEDENT (Previously Community Computer Service) 1264 3%
e-MDs 1235 3%
Practice Fusion 1156 2%
Sage 1140 2%
Other EHRs (272) 14358 29%

As Dr. Rowley points out in his post, Epic is the largest vendor on the list, but they don’t market or sale their product to independent clinics or even independent physician groups. Epic’s ambulatory EHR is found in owned or affiliated clinics who use the ambulatory piece of the EHR an Epic hospital buys. So, the above Epic number actually provides an insight into how many ambulatory practices are associated with Epic using hospitals.

The numbers tell an interesting story if you take Epic out of the mix:

EHR Vendor MU Attestations Percentage
Allscripts 5743 15%
eCW 4057 11%
NextGen 2237 6%
GE 2002 5%
Athena 1733 5%
Greenway 1650 4%
Cerner 1375 4%
MEDENT (Previously Community Computer Service) 1264 3%
e-MDs 1235 3%
Practice Fusion 1156 3%
Sage 1140 3%
Other EHRs (272) 14358 38%

Once you take out the hospital dominance in the ambulatory market, the EHR market share for any one EHR vendor is quite small. In fact, the other EHR vendor category has 38% of the EHR market. The long tail of EHR software is definitely at play right now.

Plus, we have to be really careful using meaningful use attestation as a proxy for the EHR market. I recently saw a figure that only 20% of the ambulatory EHR market had attested to meaningful use. That’s right, the above numbers only represent 20% of the ambulatory market.

If my math is correct, that still leaves almost 200,000 providers that aren’t represented in the above analysis of 50k providers. Imagine an EHR vendor comes along that’s so great that they quickly capture only 20% of the 200,000 uncounted providers (no small feat). That would give them about 40,000 providers and using the above numbers they would have 45% of the EHR market (including Epic).

Of course, the current EHR vendors will continue to sale EHR software and many will switch EHR software vendors during that time as well. Plus, no doubt many of those who haven’t attested to meaningful use already have an EHR, but aren’t represented in the numbers above. They just either don’t care about meaningful use and EHR incentive money or they’re still working to get to the point where they can attest to meaningful use. However, I still think the above numbers illustrate that there’s plenty of opportunity available for an upstart EHR company to get plenty of EHR market share.

It’s going to be an exciting next couple years as we watch all of this shake out. We’ll take a look back at this post in a few years to see how far we’ve come.

Major EMR Vendor Consolidation On The Verge

Posted on June 14, 2012 I Written By

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.

Note: This is a post by Katherine Rourke. Tomorrow watch for a post by John on EMR and EHR where he discusses some of his views on this discussion.

While it may not be immediately obvious, the EMR industry is at a major turning point in its history. Any day now, we’re going to see a bunch of mergers and acquisitions go off like a string of firecrackers, some of which may have a direct impact on your business.

Now, I don’t know how many EMR companies there are out there. In fact, I’m not sure anyone has a precise count. But can we agree that we’re looking at 1,000 or more, no?  And, heck, there’s probably thousands of companies pitching practice management + EMR,  medication management systems, clinical decision support, apps, mobile health plug-ins to EMRs and so on. Just visualize it all — you’ll get a headache but you’ll doubtless agree that we’re dealing with a raging flood of technology.

And most of it won’t stand alone forever. Every vendor likes to say that their product line has all the solutions, but even the most green sales rep doesn’t really believe that. Smart EMR tech firms and their natural allies are already beginning the mating dance, and quietly but inexorably, hooking up.

Since this isn’t the Wall Street Journal, I’m sure we don’t need to dig into deep financial discussion over this. And anyone who’s a regular reader of this site knows why software companies often buy rather than build the technologies they need to fill out their portfolio.

But I thought it was still worth noting that within, say, 18 months, the EMR world could look fairly different in the following ways:

* EMRs aimed at doctors are overabundant, to put it mildly. I predict that there will be a dozen or so well-publicized failures or buyouts in this space within the next year.

* Big vendors that pitch to both enterprises and medical practices will largely have to pick one,and it’s the enterprise side that will win. If you’re a doctor running a giant company’s EMR, stay in regular touch with your vendor and get their support promises in writing!

* There will be a flurry of mHealth activity, with EMRs that play nicely on tablets in center stage.  It’s possible the market will even support another IPO or two this year by EMR vendors if they’re offering a nifty mobile health aspect integrated with their core product.

* Doctors, in particular, risk finding that their product becomes abandonware this year as the market consolidates.  Have a Plan B available, and I mean a written plan developed by a consultant or tech-savvy senior member of your team.

So, what else do you think will happen as the market absorbs excess players and recombines relationships?

The Current Health IT and EHR Bubble

Posted on May 16, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I had a really great conversation with Shahid Shah, Jenny Laurello and John Moore at Health 2.0 about the bubble that we’re sitting in right now. John Moore’s response to my question, “When do you think the bubble will pop?” was priceless: “Which bubble?” Yes, we might be seeing multiple bubbles in healthcare IT: EHR, HIE, mobile health, etc.

For this blog, I’m most interested in the EHR bubble. Obviously, the bubble in this case is the creation of the $36 billion in EHR stimulus money that’s being handed out thanks to ARRA and the HITECH act. With over 600+ EHR vendors and a limited number of customers (I think there’s about 700,000 physicians in the US), there are going to be quite a few EHR vendors that won’t make it.

With that said, I don’t think the EHR bubble will pop like it has in other industries. In fact, I think the current IT industry bubble is going to be a much bigger problem. What’s amazing to me is how you can make a decent EHR business with only a few hundred doctors. Sure, a few hundred doctors won’t create 10 times return to investors, but those who take a conservative approach to building their EHR company could get by with what I believe is an astoundingly small customer base. Physicians are just that valuable.

Shahid Shah described EHR as a cottage industry and so cottage EHR companies will survive. I’m not exactly sure how he’d described cottage industry, but I think the regional nature of healthcare is definitely an influence on this. I’m sure many could argue that long term this strategy won’t work, but I believe at least for the forseeable future we’re not going to see the EHR bubble pop for a while.

As I think about the EHR companies I know, they all seem to have plenty of cash to make it through meaningful use stage 2 and likely all the way to meaningful use stage 3 at least. We’ll see how the smaller EHR companies do post meaningful use stage 2, but I don’t see any EHR vendors not making it to meaningful use stage 2. They’ll at least make it to MU stage 2. Then, based on their adoption results (or not) we may see a few EHR vendors run out of money.

What do you think? Are we in an EHR bubble? When will the EHR bubble pop? What other healthcare IT bubbles do you see?

Making the Case for EMR VARs

Posted on May 15, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

In the comments of a post by Dr. Gregg, someone made a really interesting case for going with an EMR VAR instead of the EMR vendor itself. Of course, this commenter was named “EMRVAR” which probably means they come from a VAR. So, you have to take these comments with a grain of salt, but their comments are worth considering. Here’s the case they made for VARs.

My Advice: Seek out a VAR – Value Added Reseller that cares more about you and your practice then any BIG NAME EMR CORPORATION that only cares about its stock valuation on any given day.

VARS

A VAR is an advocate for your practice – a Var’s many installs weigh more heavily than any one customer that the BIG EMR Corp has.

A VAR deploys technology from several vendors and adapts these products and services to its customer specific needs

A VAR partners with several product manufacturers and service providers. Though partnerships are formed, it is important to realize that a VAR is an independently owned and operated business that is not bound by any one corporation products, services and policies.

A VAR is often located locally to the communities it serves

The VAR model is important in healthcare and the above comments state a pretty good case for the EMR VAR. I find it interesting that in many respects this is the case that small EHR vendors make as well.

What has been your experience with EMR VARs?

Cloud Computing Won’t Be the Death of Client Server EMR – Something Else Will Be

Posted on May 9, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

One of the all time favorite topics of discussion here at EMR and HIPAA is around SaaS EHR software versus client server EHR software. They each go by many other names and the technical among us might know the hard core technical difference between each, but most doctors don’t know and don’t care. SaaS EHR software is often called hosted EHR software or ASP EHR software or even Cloud Computing if you want to use a general term. Client Server EHR software is sometimes called in house EHR software or self hosted EHR software. I’m sure there are other names I missed.

Regardless of what you call it, many people (usually those from SaaS software vendors) believe that client server software will lose out to the cloud. It’s hard to argue with them since in almost every other industry cloud based software has won.

Here’s why I don’t think we’re going to spell the death of client server software for a long time to come. Client server is going to be here for a long time because of such wide adoption by so many doctors. Not to mention, many of the client server EHR systems are really large implementations that would be hard to displace. Plus, there are many doctors who don’t care about the mobile benefits of a SaaS based EHR software. Quite a few doctors want to only use their EHR software in their office.

Certainly there are others on a client server based EHR system which will want to access their EHR outside of their office. Unfortunately, instead of EHR replacement we’re likely to see a hybrid environment that supports client server and some sort of app environment come out of the various client server EHR vendors.

Sure, a lot of doctors will also use Citrix or other remote desktop environments and hate the user experience, but it will pacify them until the hybrid EHR environment is built. In fact, that hate towards the remote desktop environment on a mobile device will drive the development of this hybrid approach. The advantages of a client server environment with an app connection will keep the client server environment around for a while.

So, while many want to declare the death to client server, I’m not ready to do so. Sure, SaaS EHR software has its advantages, but client server software isn’t going to go down without a fight and they’re going to be around for a while since in many cases they hold the high ground.

Meaningful Use Does Not Ensure Solid EHR Company – Meaningful Use Monday

Posted on April 30, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

For those of you who don’t follow all the inside EHR “baseball” that’s happening right now with Allscripts, you might want to check it out. If you use one of Allscripts various EHR software (do they have 6 EHR softwares now? I lose count) then you really want to pay attention. Here’s my cliff notes version of what’s happened for those who don’t want to research the details. Half the Allscripts board left and so did the CFO. It appears it was an Eclipsys departure with the previous Allscripts board members and CEO Glen Tullman remaining. After this happened the stock (MDRX) plummeted.

While to those inside the EMR world will realize that this isn’t a death knell for everything Eclipsys related, many who don’t know how important the Eclipsys software is for Allscripts could easily see this a different way. Of course, in the heartless world of publicly traded companies and CEO’s doing what they can to prop up stock price, you never know what action they might take next.

The best evaluation I saw of the Allscripts situation is that it is very likely that Allscripts and Glen Tullman will use this stock drop to start making even more drastic moves. For example, we all know that they don’t need that many EHR software and so none of us should be surprised if they choose to sunset 1 or more of their EHR software. Yes, that’s right. Your EHR software isn’t safe even if you buy it from a large EHR vendor like Allscripts (see also when GE ceased operations of Centricity Advance).

Think about it from Allscripts perspective. It takes A LOT of extra resources to ensure that multiple EHR software products are even just meeting the meaningful use and certified EHR requirements let alone actually creating innovative new EHR software features. Cutting out an EHR software will provide a huge cost savings to Allscripts going forward.

Why is this the topic of Meaningful Use Monday? I think this is an incredibly important topic related to meaningful use, because I can already see the physicians and practice managers hitting my website if Allscripts chose to cease their Allscripts MyWay EHR offering (I have no indication that Myway is gone. I’m just speaking hypothetically). I’m quite certain that many physicians and practice managers will wonder how an EHR vendor could sunset or stop developing an EHR software that is certified for meaningful use.

It’s quite simple: Meaningful Use and EHR Certification are NO guarantee of an EHR software’s long term viability.

I have a section in my EMR selection e-Book about ensuring the viability of your EHR vendor. I’ll admit that it’s not an easy task and is more art than science given our limited information about MANY EHR vendors. However, it’s worth considering the long term plans of an EHR vendor and a particular EHR software in that vendor’s quiver. Although, meaningful use and EHR certification do nothing to help you in that regard.

One final warning: we’re just at the start of EHR vendors going out of business, EHR vendors being bought by larger vendors, EHR software being closed down, EMR software being sunset. I give it another year before the Tsunami of EHR software mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies, fire sales hit our shore. Although, the early warning signs are there and so we should prepare for the oncoming wave. The challenge is knowing where you can find high ground.

EHR Is the Database of Healthcare

Posted on March 1, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’ve been regularly writing and thinking for the past few months about something I’ve branded as the “Smart EMR.” Basically, the EMR of the future won’t be a repository of documents and information like before. Instead, doctors will have an expectation that the EMR is smart and can do something valuable with all the health information that’s stored in the EMR. I love this subject. I should put together a presentation on it and start touring it around the country, but I digress.

While at HIMSS I had the pleasure of talking with Sean Benson, VP of Innovation at Wolters Kluwer Health. In our discussion, he said something that hit me like a ton of bricks. He suggested that EHR software is the database of healthcare. The implication being that EHR software is good at collecting healthcare data and storing that data. What they’re not good at doing is actually providing the smart layer that goes on top of that data.

I’m sure that many who know about Wolters Kluwer Health’s (WKH) software offerings might see Sean’s view as bias since WKH, as best I can tell, wants to be the smart layer that goes on top of EHR software. In fact, they showed me some really interesting technology they have for processing all the medical information out there into a really digestible format, but that’s a post for another day. Their interests and clinical decision support software aside, the idea of the EHR software being the database of healthcare seemed to resonate with me.

I’ve often described EHR software to date as a big billing engine. Some EHR are trying to break that mold, but that’s a hard mold to break since a big billing engine is what the market has asked them to create (for the most part). With that in mind, it’s certainly hard for an EHR software to develop a true Smart EHR platform.

I can see in my mind’s eye a product development team going into the EHR vendor executives office and pitching some amazingly smart and effective EHR software for improving patient care. The cynical me then sees the EHR vendor executive saying, “We can’t monetize that.” or a related “That won’t sell more EHR.” The sad thing is that the executive is probably right…at least today. The market hasn’t started demanding a Smart EHR and improved patient care. I’m hopeful that the new ACO model will help to shift that focus, but it’s still too early to tell if that will provide the impetus for change.

Another part of me hopes that a true entrepreneur will come along and build an EHR that provides such a stark contrast in how it provides patient care that doctors won’t be able to resist using it. Something impactful like the stethoscope, that if a doctor isn’t using it patients won’t go to that doctor. However, this line of thinking seems to push the concept of EHRs being the database of healthcare and not the All in One Smart EHR.

If I’m an entrepreneur with the vision of transforming patient care through smart use of EHR data, why would I want to build an EHR from the ground up when there are a number of very large EHR vendors that have APIs that allow me to build upon their data? If the data’s already been collected, then I’m likely to focus all of my energy creating innovative solutions with that data, not creating the mechanism to collect the data.

What’s a database? Tools to collect data, store data and then retrieve data. What’s an EHR today? Mechanisms to collect health data, store the data and then retrieve the data.

Ok, that’s a bit of an over simplification, but the analogy is there. You can see why so many EHR vendors are trying to become “the platform” of healthcare. Turns out that being the repository of data that everyone else builds cool stuff on top of is very valuable. However, building that platform requires a very different culture and focus than building Smart EHR solutions.

This is why I’m sure many EHR vendors will try to develop some Smart EHR solutions, but in the end EHR will be the Database of Healthcare that other Smart EHR applications connect into. I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.