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Mulling Over EMR Market Consolidation

Posted on September 27, 2013 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

I had the pleasure of attending a Technology Association of Georgia Health Society event last week on mobile health. It offered me a chance to chat with colleagues, and hear from a panel of payers, providers, startups and vendors on the current state of and predictions for mobile health. While networking beforehand, I found myself trying to succinctly answer a colleague’s question of, “Where do you see the EMR market heading in the next few years?”

My short answer was, “It is consolidating and will continue to consolidate.” I had more details and theories on the tip of my tongue, but didn’t get the chance to back up my statements before we were ushered in to the evening’s presentation. It was a big question – one that I think has only one correct answer, but also one that potentially has a variety of explanations behind that answer. Needless to say, I mulled it over that night and into the next day, when, coincidentally, I awoke to news of the Vitera/Greenway Medical deal.

If I had the chance to do it over again, I’d break my response down like this: Meaningful Use obviously provided incentive for businesses to get into the EMR game. Some were already in healthcare, while others were on the fringes. Combine those new industry entrants with companies that have provided EMRs since before HITECH, and you’re left with a crowded market.

Implementations and go lives coinciding with Stage 1 left many providers dissatisfied with the EMR experience thus far, but still willing to forge ahead. As they look to Stage 2, some realize their vendors – whom many are already disenchanted with – will not be up to the task of helping hospitals meet digital patient engagement quotas, among other Meaningful Use guidelines. And so began the rip and replace movement.

Vendors deemed not up to par looked at their options. Many took a step back and reassessed product development and strategy, deciding to either: get out of the healthcare game, close up shop altogether, merge with a competitor, or make themselves available for possible acquisition.

That’s one wave of consolidation. I’m fairly confident we’ll see another wave in the next 12 to 18 months, if it hasn’t already started. (I don’t think we’ll see too many Phoenix-type situations like Google.) As providers dive deeper into using technologies around Stage 2 engagement requirements, they’ll experience a second wave of acceptance or denial. At some point, the EMR replacement market will die down, providers will settle into the technology they’ve settled on, and purchases of new systems will stagnate. EMR sales will thus dry up a bit, forcing vendors to again look at their options. I would think that many will turn into consulting services once the demand for new software has died down.

Now that I’ve put pen to paper and laid out my thoughts, I wonder what readers predict. I encourage you to let me know whether I’m on the mark, totally off base, or somewhere in between.

EMR Vendors Buying Physician Market Share

Posted on January 9, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Here at EMRandEHR.com, as well as in blogs across the web, we’ve been predicting that this will be the time when the EMR vendor market will begin to consolidate.  I stand by that prediction. But I have to admit that the first couple of deals I’ve tracked have turned out differently than I had expected.

Consider the acquisition of Amazing Charts by Pri-Med, a provider of professional medical education to more than 260,000 clinicians. I would have assumed that Amazing Charts would be acquired by a larger EMR vendor to fill out its offering physicians, but instead, Amazing sold to a publishing company with a huge physician base.  In retrospect, it makes plenty of sense, but for some reason I didn’t see it coming.

EMR vendor athenahealth pursued a similar strategy recently when it signed a definitive agreement to buy Epocrates, perhaps the most popular mobile application used by physicians today. athenahealth agreed to pay almost $300 million in cash for Epocrates, 22 percent more than what the mobile app vendor’s’ stock was worth on the day in question, in a move that the EMR company concedes tapped out its credit line.

But costly though the deal might have been, athena is getting a lot for its money. Buying Epocrates adds another one million physicians to its comparatively small provider base of 38,000.  If you consider the app itself plus the physician users, athenahealth’s investment seems pretty reasonable. When you consider how costly it is to acquire physicians as customers, a deal valuing them at $300 a physician doesn’t sound astronomical to me.

What I’m getting at, bottom line, is that other EMR players are likely to follow the model established by the Amazing Charts and athenahealth deals. I think this approach — buying, rather than begging for, new physician relationships — makes a great deal of sense.  What about you?

Early Signs Of EMR Consolidation Appearing

Posted on November 23, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Some of you are going to tell me that I’ve jumped the gun, but I’ve got my feeling about this and I’m sticking to it. Though nothing massive has happened yet, I believe we’re officially beginning to see consolidation in the EMR world.

I was struck with this idea today when I came upon the news that physician EMR company Imagine MD was closing. According to MedCityNews.com, the cloud-based EMR company had pulled in $25 million in venture money, $10 million of that in the last 12 months. And until recently, it looked as though it had staying power; Imagine MD had been in business since 2006, well ahead of the pack of competitors pitching small medical practices.

Another sign that we’re seeing consolidation comes in the form of the acquisition of Amazing Charts by Pri-Med, a provider of professional medical education to more than 260,000 clinicians. (I wouldn’t have expected a medical education company to be the one to acquire Amazing, but that’s a story for another time.)

While I admit two examples isn’t exactly a statistical bump, it’s a clear enough sign for me that the market has begun to pull together. After all, with EMR adoption on the rise among medical practices, there’s only so many customers left to compete for, and that can only mean more closings and M&A.

The really important question, if you’re a doctor hoping to avoid a big practice disruption, is whether you can predict which direction your present or future EMR vendor is going.  That is, of course, a pretty tricky game.

But if you’d like some food for thought, you might consider checking out a previous post by John, comparing “fast EMR companies” fueled by venture capital to slower-moving types that grow organically and don’t tend to accept venture capital investments.

While there are exceptions — notably Practice Fusion, which seems to have an extremely solid business — the tech business is rife with examples of fast companies that soared high on venture capital drafts then plummeted to earth.  I’m not suggesting that you should avoid VC-backed EMR firms, physicians, but I am suggesting that you find out as much as you can about the size of their customer base, finances and strategy before you commit your business into their hands.

Otherwise, you could end up like ImagineMD’s EMR-less customers. And if that’s not a bummer I don’t know what is.

EHR Company Funding Risks – Large EHR Companies

Posted on May 29, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 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.

This is the fourth post in my EHR Company Funding Risks series that was started in response to my original post about the The Current Health IT & EHR Bubble. In this series, we’re looking at the following EHR company categories: Seed Funded, Well Funded, Positive Cash Flow, Large EHR Company, and Large Company Backed EHR. Next up is Large EHR companies.

Large EHR Companies
Most of the EHR companies that fit into this category are publicly traded EHR companies (with a few notable exceptions). Each of these EHR companies has their own story, but the majority include some mix of EHR acquisition or EHR merger to get into or expand their EHR market reach. Often this means that the EHR company has more than one EHR software under their purview.

Many of the larger EHR group practices and particularly the multi specialty clinics look to the larger EHR companies because these large EHR companies have usually worked to try and cover every EHR specialty in their EHR. In most cases the EHR software has been around for a very long time. This is good because then the software is often mature, but it’s also bad because it’s often built on old technology.

The large complaint against these large EHR companies is that they’re large and impersonal. That they are out of touch with the customer. Of course, this is kind of the nature of being a large company and having a large user base. Plus, you can imagine the challenge listening across a half dozen different EHR software products.

The risks associated with these large EHR companies software usually has much less to do with cash flow and much more to do with the decisions of the EHR company executives. With multiple EHR software under their umbrella, will they choose to close the one you use down and focus on their other EHR products? Will your EHR product get lost in the corporate shuffle of priorities? Sure, they’ll still support your EHR product if there’s an issue, but have they dedicated the company resources to your EHR or to another product in the company’s portfolio?

One argument that larger EHR vendors have made is that they’re the only companies that have the resources available to create the EHR software of the future. Some argue that many of the smaller EHR companies won’t be able to meet meaningful use stage 3, because they don’t have the resources available to do that. Not to mention when we eventually have to do Watson like Smart EHR software integrations across large data sets. I think the first part about doing MU is overstated. I think the jury is still out on how smart EHR software will become over time and how smart physicians require their EHR to be.

Next up, we’ll look at Large Company Backed EHR. Read all the posts in the EHR Company Funding Risks series.