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.