Specialty EMR Market Still Lagging Behind

Posted on July 8, 2011 I Written By

Katherine Rourke 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.

This week, I got an announcement from a specialty EMR vendor which seems to be getting decent traction in its market. The company, Health IT Services Group, announced that its Acumen nEHR system for nephrologists had just passed the 1,000-customer mark.

According to the company, Acumen is the only nephrology-specific EHR that is certified by CCHIT and ONC-ATCB.  The company also operates one of the largest CMS-qualified reporting services for doctors participating in the Physician Quality Reporting System, a benefit other specialty EMRs may not offer.

All that being said, the most recent estimate I could find concluded that there were about 8,300 nephrologists in the U.S. as of 2010. So while Acumen’s performance may be impressive — a 12 percent share of your market is always a good sign — there’s a ton of nephrologists who aren’t logged on.

Those who are using other EMRs probably aren’t getting a specialized product. My Web research suggests that most EMRs pitched to nephrologists were built for general medical needs, beefed up with a few templates addressing their clinical issues.

My guess is that most specialties are in a similar position — that they can choose from one or two specialty EMR products or go with a general EMR vendor which has arguably shoehorned a few extra functions into the mix.

Before any vendor reading this gets hot under the collar, bear in mind that I’m not suggesting that companies who don’t specialize solely in a single specialty can’t make a good specialty product.

On the other hand, in all honesty, the scuttlebutt I’ve picked up from Twitter comments, discussion forums and trade pubs (as well as my own interviews) suggests that general EMRs with extra functions/templates just don’t cut it for many specialists.

What all of this says to me is that the market for specialty EMRs has a long way to go before it matures. While most doctors have concluded that EMR adoption is inevitable, many specialists don’t seem to have a broad range of options if they want a system tailored to their needs.  (My sense is that for some reason, the psychiatry EMR market is healthier than most, but I don’t have numbers to back that up, just general observation.)

So, readers, I’m tossing this one out to you. Do you think the EMR market will grow increasingly specialized — as one might expect in other markets  — or will the products made by broad-based EMR vendors become sophisticated enough to really satisfy specialists?