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Patient Generated Data, Workflow and Usability Coming Into Focus for EHR Vendors

Posted on October 16, 2017 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

At the recent Medical Group Management Association annual conference (MGMA17), I made a point of visiting as many of the EHR vendors in the exhibit hall as I could so that I could ask them two questions:

  1. What are you working on right now, given that there is a bit of a lull between ONC requirements?
  2. How do EHRs and EHR vendors need to evolve over the next 5 years?

Below are some of the best responses I received.

Steve Dart, Senior Director of Product Management at AdvancedMD believes that both EHRs and EHR companies need to fundamentally change their paradigms in order to thrive over the next five years. “EHRs should facilitate the job that needs to get done rather than serve as a documentation repository,” says Dart. “What is that job? Helping patients live healthier lives while at the same helping physicians be happier at work. We really missed the boat during the Meaningful Use (MU) gold rush. We neither helped patients be healthier nor did we make physician lives easier. In fact, as an industry we generally made things more difficult for doctors.”

AdvancedMD is charting a new path forward, instead of just fixing their user interface (UI), they are rethinking their entire approach to their EHR. The company is taking full advantage of the lull in MU requirements by using the time to bring together designers, UI experts, physicians and office managers to design a brand new EHR. Dubbed the “connect the dots” strategy, AdvancedMD is centering their next generation on clinical and administrative workflows.

“When you think about it, healthcare is really just a journey of sequential workflows,” Dart explains. “A patient starts by experiencing symptoms, then moves to research physicians online, schedules an appointment, comes in for their visit, goes to get lab tests done, comes back to discuss the results and fills a prescription. What EHR companies have done is create whole bunch of point solutions for each one of these situations. What we haven’t done well is connect these all together with technology. We siloed everything. Instead what we need to realize is that each situation is actually a complex workflow and we journey from one workflow to another as patients. What we need now, and what AdvancedMD believes, is that we should build technology that enables these workflows – make them easier and more seamless for patients and physicians. Data collection, for example, should happen on devices that both doctors and patients already use and in a way that doesn’t detract from the visit.”

To illustrate that AdvancedMD is doing more than just giving their theory lip-service, Dart showed an early design prototype of an EHR interface that provides a longitudinal view of a practice. Instead of clicking down into one patient to order labs or renew prescriptions and then clicking down into the next patient to do the same, the new interface groups all lab orders together and all the prescriptions together. One click and the physician can see all that they need to do and clicks once to push the orders ahead. The new interface is highly intuitive and functional.

Juan Molina, VP of Strategy and Business Development at CareCloud also believes that EHRs need to radically change. “EHRs need to allow doctors and their staff to do their jobs better,” says Molina. “We have to stop asking doctors to be data entry clerks and documentation specialists. They need to go back to being 100% focused on the patient and providing care. As an industry we have focused too much on checking the box. We need to move beyond that through better use of technology – especially modern cloud-based architectures.”

Mollna is most excited about the potential of real-time analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the point of care. He feels that the promise of precision medicine and true personalized care will only be possible if “massive amounts of health data is crunched and context from that data delivered to the doctor at the time when they are seeing a patient.” CareCloud is using the freedom from compliance requirements to work on new partnerships for deep analytics, AI and patient experience (read about their partnership with First Data here).

It is refreshing to hear EHR companies talk about collaboration. Over the past several years it was frustrating to see vendors attempt to build everything themselves only to end up with inferior solutions to what was readily available in other industries from other vendors. Partnership and collaboration are a welcome shift in EHR strategy.

athenahealth is actively pursuing partnerships as part of their More Disruption Please (MDP) program. “We are constantly expanding and improving our cloud-based platform to align with our vision,” says Stephanie Zaremba, Director of Government and Regulatory Affairs at athenahealth. “We want to see a healthcare industry free from administrative burden, enabled to care for diverse and disparate populations, and one that ultimately lets doctors be doctors. We believe that the current paradigm of federal regulations hinders, rather than helps, our industry from making this vision a reality. The innovation we so desperately need can’t flourish in the confines of check-the-box requirements that do not grow and evolve with technological advances. But even if we’re stuck with the regulatory status quo, in the next five years, we hope that vendors will continue to embrace their collective potential, shifting from competitors to collaborators in an effort to create a more provider-friendly, patient-facing, and connective tech landscape that captures the full continuum of care.”

The announcement of the partnership between Pulse Systems and InteliChart at MGMA17 is a prime example of this newfound collaborative spirit. For years Pulse offered a perfectly serviceable patient portal, yet they recognized that they would never pour as much time and effort into that area of their solution versus a company like InteliChart.

“We are pursuing an open-EHR strategy,” explains Chris Walls, President & CEO of Pulse Systems. “Although we provide a comprehensive solution, we recognize that clients may not want every component from our stack. They may want to keep a best-of-breed solution that they already have in place. Rather than force our clients to change, we are working to ensure we can integrate and play nice with others.”

Pulse arrived at this open approach by listening closely to clients and prospects. What they found was an under-current of a best-of-breed approach. Physician offices wanted to use different tools and applications from different vendors but the lack of integration and internal IT resources forced them to go with a single monolithic solution instead.

Through this listening exercise, Pulse also realized that it was more than an EHR vendor to its clients. Many of their clients are smaller practices which do not have ready access to technical support. Rather than deflect their client’s calls for help with mundane things like anti-virus updates, internet connection issues and printer failures, they leaned into it. They created a dedicated IT Field Support team that handles calls for routine IT issues and will even fly out to help a client if needed.

By proactively helping their clients in this manner, Pulse has found that they reduce EHR issues down the road and they engender tremendous loyalty. When you think about it Pulse is essentially applying a Population Health approach to their own clients – offering preventative maintenance to avoid more costly support calls in the future.

Most impressive is how Greenway Health is using this lull in compliance requirements. “Now that we are freed from working on ONC compliance work, we are putting focus on customer requested enhancements” says Mark Janiszewski, EVP of Product Managmeent & Corporate Development at Greenway. “Much to the delight of our customers, we can now apply resources to the enhancements that they have asked for, but that were lower in priority compared to what was needed to comply with regulations and the Meaningful Use program.”

Greenway is also using their “found time” to take a serious look at EHR usability. They recognize that there is tension between physicians and EHR makers caused by the endless clicking and confusing user interfaces. Greenway is hoping to relieve that tension by collaborating with clients to improve their system. According to Janiszewski, the company has planned a series of customer visits where a team of designers and engineers can observe how people interact with their system over a 2-3 day period.

The team has already identified several areas of improvement after observing how admin staff were copying down ID numbers from one screen onto post-it notes in order to key it in on a different screen to bypass a lengthy click-path. The team is hard at work to ensure data is transferred across the system more seamlessly.

Over the next five years, Janiszewski believes that EHR companies will have to embrace the concept of multiple care settings and multiple data sources: “EHRs will need to have a higher degree of interoperability as patients move between care settings – from acute care to rehab to home care or from acute care to elder care. EHRs will also need to solve for Patient Generated Data. We are all wearing fitness trackers and using apps to track our health. This data needs to be incorporated in a meaningful way into the EHR. “

The responses from MGMA17 demonstrates that companies are well aware of the negative feelings healthcare providers have towards EHRs. What is very encouraging is that fixing the user interface is only one of many different solutions being pursued by EHR companies. Rather than myopically focusing on the shiny object in front of them, companies like Greenway, Pulse, athenahealth, CareCloud and AdvancedMD are taking a step back and looking at healthcare with a broader perspective in order to identify opportunities for improvement. It will be interesting to circle back with them a year from now to see what progress has been made.

Researcher Puts Epic In Third Place For EMR Market Share

Posted on May 16, 2017 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 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.

A new research report tracking market share held by EMR vendors puts Epic in third place, behind Cerner and McKesson, a conclusion which is likely to spark debate among industry watchers.

The analyst firm behind the report, Rockville, MD-based Kalorama Information, starts by pointing out that despite the hegemony maintained by larger EMR vendors, the competition for business is still quite lively. With customers still dissatisfied with their systems, the hundreds of vendors still in the market have a shot at thriving, it notes.

Kalorama publisher Bruce Carlson argues that until the larger firms get their act together, there will still be plenty of opportunity for these scrappy smaller players: “It’s still true to say no company, not even the largest healthcare IT firms, have even a fifth of this market,” Carlson said in a published statement. “We think that is because there’s still usability, vendor-switching, lack of mindshare in the market and customers are aching for better.”

In calculating how much each vendor has of the EMR market, the analyst firm estimated each vendors’ hardware, software and services revenue flowing directly from EMRs, breaking out the percentage each category represented for each vendor. All projects were based on 2016 data.

Among the giants, Kalorama ranks Cerner as having the biggest market share, McKesson as second in place and Epic as third. The report’s observations include:

  • That Cerner is picking up new business, in part, due to the addition of its CernerITWorks suite, which works with hospital IT departments, and Cerner RevWorks, which supports revenue cycle management functions. Kalorama also attributes Cerner’s success to the acquisition of Siemens IT and its having won the Department of Defense EMR contract.
  • That McKesson is building on its overall success as a health IT vendor, which puts it in a good position to build on its existing technology. For example, it has solutions addressing medication safety, information access, revenue cycle management, resource use and physician adoption of EMRs, including Paragon, Horizon, EHRM, Star and Series for hospitals, along with Practice Partners, Practice Point Plus and Fusion for ambulatory care.
  • That Epic serves giant customers like Kaiser Permanente, as well as holding a major share of new business in the EMR market. Kalorama is predicting that Epic will pick up more ambulatory customers, which it has focused on more closely of late.

The report also lists Allscripts Healthcare Solution, which came in fourth. Meanwhile, it tosses in GE Healthcare, Athenahealth’s Intersystems, QSI/NextGen, MEDITECH, Greenway and eClinicalWorks in with a bundle of at least 600 companies active in the EMR market.

The report summary we editors got didn’t include some details on how the market components broke down. I would like to know more about the niches in which these vendors play.

For example, having seen a prediction earlier this year that the physician practice market would hit $17.6 billion worldwide within seven years, it would be interesting to see that dot connected with the rest of the market share information. Specifically, I’d like to know how much of the ambulatory EMR market included integrated practice management software. That would tell me something about where overall solutions for physicians were headed.

However, I still got something out of the information Kalorama shared.  As our esteemed publisher John Lynn often notes, all market share measurements are a bit, um, idiosyncratic at best, and some are not even that reliable. But as I see it the estimates are worth considering nonetheless, as they challenge us to look at the key moving parts in the EMR market. Hey, and it gives us something to talk about at tradeshow parties!

News Flash: Physicians Still Very Dissatisfied With EMRs

Posted on October 18, 2016 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 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.

Anyone who reads this blog knows that many physicians still aren’t convinced that the big industry-wide EMR rollout was a good idea. But nonetheless, I was still surprised to learn — as you might be as well — that in the aggregate, physicians thoroughly dislike pretty much all of the ambulatory EMRs commonly used in medical practices today.

This conclusion, along with several other interesting factoids, comes from a new report from healthcare research firm peer60. The report is based on a survey from the firm conducted in August of this year, reaching out to 1,053 doctors in various specialties.

Generally speaking, the peer60 study found that EMR market for acute care facilities is consolidating quickly, and that Epic continues to add market share in the ambulatory EMR market (Although, it’s possible that’s also survey bias).  In fact, 50% of respondents reported using an Epic system, followed by 21% Cerner, 9% Allscripts and 4% the military EMR VistA.  Not surprisingly, respondents reporting Epic use accounted for 55% of hospitals with 751+ beds, but less predictably, a full 59% of hospitals of up to 300 beds were Epic shops as well. (For an alternate look at acute care EMR market share, check out the stats on systems with the highest number of certified users.)

When it came to which EMR the physician used in their own practice, however, the market looks a lot tighter. While 18% of respondents said they used Epic, 7% reported using Allscripts, 6% eClinicalWorks, 5% Cerner, 4% athenahealth, e-MDs and NextGen, 3% Greenway and Practice Fusion and 2% GE Healthcare. Clearly, have remained open to a far greater set of choices than hospitals. And that competition is likely to remain robust, as few practices seem to be willing to change to competitor systems — in fact, only 9% said they were interested in switching at present.

To me, where the report got particularly interesting was when peer60 offered data on the “net promoter scores” for some of the top vendors. The net promoter score method it uses is simple: it subtracts the percent of physicians who wouldn’t recommend an EMR from the percent who would recommend that EMR to get a number from 100 to -100. And obviously, if lots of physicians reported that they wouldn’t recommend a product the NPS fell into the negative.

While the report declines to name which NPS is associated with which vendor, it’s clear that virtually none have anything to write home about here. All but one of the NPS ratings were below zero, and one was rated at a nasty -73. The best NPS among the ambulatory care vendors was a 5, which as I read it suggests that either physicians feel they can tolerate it or simply believe the rest of the crop of competitors are even worse.

Clearly, something is out of order across the entire ambulatory EMR industry if a study like this — which drew on a fairly large number of respondents cutting across most hospital sizes and specialties — suggests that doctors are so unhappy with what they have. According to the report, the biggest physician frustrations are poor EMR usability and a lack of desired functionality, so what are we waiting for? Let’s get this right! The EMR revolution will never bear fruit if so many doctors are so frustrated with the tools they have.

KLAS Names Top EMR Vendors For Mid-Sized Practices

Posted on January 27, 2014 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 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.

A new report by KLAS has designated Epic, athenahealth and Greenway as the top three EMR vendors among mid-sized healthcare practices.  The report, which also identified unpopular EMRs in the space, drew its conclusions based on analysis of ability, workflow and integration capabilities, according to iHealthBeat.

To do the study, KLAS interviewed clinicians and IT personnel at practices with 11 to 75 doctors.

Researchers named the top three mid-sized EMR vendors as Epic Systems, which scored a 85.3 points out of 100; athenahealth, which scored 83.5 points; and Greenway, which scored 81.3 points.

Each of the top three vendors distinguished themselves in unique ways.  For example, researchers found that practices liked Epic’s consistent delivery in large hospital-based practices, athenahealth’s “nimble deployment” and system updates, and Greenway’s exceptional service to smaller, independent practices.

Meanwhile, KLAS noted that Allscripts, McKesson and Vitera had the highest percentage of dissatisfied customers, practices which felt stuck with their current EMR system but would not purchase it again.  Reasons for their dissatisfaction included upgrade issues, lack of support, and a perceived lack of vendor partnership, iHealthBeat said.

When it comes down to it, it’s pretty clear when these practices need from their vendors, and a feeling of partnership and mutual support seems to top the list of matter which researchers is doing the study.  But it’s clear that these characteristics can be pretty hard to come by, even from companies you’d think had plenty of resources to deliver a sense of support and availability to their customers.  Allscripts, McKesson and Vitera (although it is Greenway now) had better get their act together quickly, as mid-sized medical practices are a major market, even if they don’t spend quite as much as hospitals.

EHR Appointment Type’s the Headwaters of Workflow

Posted on January 8, 2014 I Written By

When Carl Bergman isn't rooting for the Washington Nationals or searching for a Steeler bar, he’s Managing Partner of the last dozen years, he’s concentrated on EHR consulting and writing. He spent the 80s and 90s as an itinerant project manager doing his small part for the dot com bubble. Prior to that, Bergman served a ten year stretch in the District of Columbia government as a policy and fiscal analyst, a role he recently repeated for a Council member.

It’s a rare EHR that doesn’t include scheduling an appointment’s time and purpose. Usually, there’s a line for the patient, which doctor and an appointment type. Patient and doctor are straight forward, but practices may not take advantage of what appointment type can do for them.

Even having meaningful types can be difficult. One practice I worked with just wanted minutes as appointment types, 15, 30, etc. That took a while to work through, but we finally settled on Initial, Pre Op, etc., which made tracking their work a little more meaningful.

Many EHRs leave the subject at having categories or adding insurance requirements. Other EHRs do more and can save a lot of time and work. Rather than seeing appointment type as a handy pigeonhole for patient types, these see appointment type in a critical workflow role of reserving resources for an encounter.

For example, if you schedule a patient’s annual physical, you’ll need a room and someone to do vitals, weight, etc., and an EKG. If you’re a male doctor with a female patient, you’ll want to have a woman staffer scheduled for part of the exam, too.

Rather than schedule these ad hoc, some systems allow you to define the resources needed for the appointment type and schedule them as needed. Greenway’s PrimeSuite, for example, does this. Here’s how it sets up a new appointment type:

  • Click the + sign under the appointment type tab to add the new appointment type.
  • Once you click on the + sign, enter the appointment type in the yellow box
  • To the right of the appointment type name, click the drop down and pick the duration of the appointment type
  • Enter the abbreviation of the appointment type (this will appear on the schedule screen)
  • In box #2 – Enter the patient instructions for this appointment type. This is a friendly reminder to your staff as to what they need to instruct the patient to bring or do.
  • In box #3 – Pick the color of the appointment which will appear on the schedule screen
  • In box #4 – Select and move to the right which resource/provider/room can see this appointment type
  • In box #5 – Select the visit type – category as to which superbill you will want to pull for this appointment type
  • In box #6 – Enter an alternative appointment type that can be printed on confirmations for the patients. This can be the same as box #1, which is your appointment type
  • Click the Save disc at the top
  • Repeat steps until all of your appointment types are entered into the system.

Greenway’s Box No. 4 lets the user specify the resources that go with this appointment type. The user can assign personnel, equipment, rooms, etc. When selected the system checks for availability and reserves them for the needed times.

Greenway’s PrimeSuite Appointment Type Definition Screen

Many practices will be shopping for a new EHR in the coming year. Their shopping lists would do well to include a robust appointment type. Of course, I encourage anyone who’s in the EHR market to use our free resource, The Selector’s Practice Management category has these two appointment type features:

  • PM50 (895) Appointment Type can reserve resources, for example, room, equipment.
  • PM51 (896) Appointment Type can schedule supporting personnel, such as technicians, aides etc.

Brazen Self Promotion
Recently, I created a new LinkedIn group, EHRUsability. This is the type of issue discussion I hope it will promote. All are welcome.

CommonWell Announces Sites For Interoperability Rollout

Posted on December 13, 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 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.

Nine months after announcing their plan to increase interoperability between health IT data sources, the CommonWell Health Alliance has disclosed the locations where it will first offer interoperability services.

CommonWell, whose members now include health IT vendors Allscripts, athenahealth, Cerner, CPSI, Greenway, McKesson, RelayHealth and Sunquest, launched to some skepticism — and a bit of behind-the-hand smirks because Epic Systems wasn’t included — but certainly had the industry’s attention.  And today, the vendors do seem to have critical mass, as the Alliance’s founding members represent 42 percent of the acute and 23 percent of the ambulatory EMR market, according to research firms SK&A and KLAS.

Now, the rubber meets the road, with the Alliance sharing a list of locations where it will first roll out services. It’s connecting providers in Chicago, Elkin and Henderson, North Carolina and Columbia, South Carolina. Interoperability services will be launched in these markets sometime at the beginning of 2014.

To make interoperability possible, Alliance members, RelayHealth and participating provider sites will be using a patient-centric identity and matching approach.

The initial participating providers include Lake Shore Obstetrics & Gynecology (Chicago, IL), Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital (Elkin, NC), Maria Parham Medical Center (Henderson, NC), Midlands Orthopaedics (Columbia, SC), and Palmetto Health (Columbia, SC).

The participating providers will do the administrative footwork to make sure the data exchange can happen. They will enroll patients into the service and manage patient consents needed to share data. They’ll also identify whether other providers have data for a patient enrolled in the network and transmit data to another provider that has consent to view that patient’s data.

Meanwhile, the Alliance members will be providing key technical services that allow providers to do the collaboration electronically, said Bob Robke, vice president of Cerner Network and a member of the Alliance’s board of directors.  CommonWell offers providers not only identity services, but a patient’s identity is established, the ability to share CCDs with other providers by querying them. (In case anyone wonders about how the service will maintain privacy, Robke notes that all clinical information sharing is peer to peer  — and that the CommonWell services don’t keep any kind of clinical data repository.)

The key to all of this is that providers will be able to share this information without having to be on a common HIE, much less be using the same EMR — though in Columbia, SC, the Alliance will be “enhancing” the capabilities of the existing local HIE by bringing acute care facility Palmetto Health, Midlands Orthopaedics and Capital City OB/GYN ambulatory practices into the mix.

It will certainly be interesting to see how well the CommonWell approach works, particularly when it’s an overlay to HIEs. Let’s see if the Alliance actually adds something different and helpful to the mix.

Investors To Take Greenway Medical Private

Posted on October 14, 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 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.

Health IT vendor Greenway Medical Technologies has agreed to be taken private by investment firm Vista Equity Partners for $644 million.  The deal, which comes less than two years after the company went public, will roll up Greenway with Vitera Healthcare Solutions LLC, a privately-held EMR vendor which is owned by Vista Equity, Reuters reports.

Vista has agreed to pay $20.35 per Greenway share, about 19 percent more than the stock’s Tuesday close of $17.13 on the New York Stock Exchange. The price is more than the Greenway shares have seen through its existence as a public company. (According to Reuters, the shares saw a lifetime high of $19.44 in November.)

Greenway has said that stockholders owning about 50.9 percent of its shares have agreed to tender in their holdings and vote to push the deal through. All of Greenway’s directors and some of its executive officers have also agreed to do so, according to the Reuters report.

Vista must have seen tremendous value in hooking up Vitera with Greenway. After all, it’s willing to take on a financially wobbly company that lost $5.1 million in its 2013 fiscal year ending June 30 and pay a premium for it. Although Greenway has regularly commented that many of their revenue issues stem from their move to a monthly revenue model.

If nothing else, the deal bulks up both sides to a level that can only help during an era of EMR consolidation. According to the two companies, the combined entity will serve almost 13,000 medical organizations and 100,000 providers. The new health IT company will be marketed under the Greenway brand.

This transaction made me think about a recent post by my colleague John Lynn regarding the status of the EMR vendor marketplace. It’s his view that we’re past the “Golden Age of EHR Adoption” and that things will be tougher for vendors than ever before. Assuming he’s right — and his thesis is pretty hard to argue — we should see a lot more consolidation deals taking place in the near future.

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.

Retail Clinics Buddy Up with HIT and MU Lessons from a 3 Year Old

Posted on August 23, 2012 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.

It seems I can’t read a blog, tweet or even old-fashioned newspaper these days without coming across some headline having to do with retail health clinics buddying up to healthcare IT. Announcements from two companies come to mind.

The first involves SoloHealth – developer of health and wellness kiosks. It received FDA approval for its product earlier this summer, and followed that development up with news of financial investment from benefits company WellPoint. It also has announced plans for a national rollout of its kiosks sometime this fall. Assuming its website is up to date, there are SoloHealth Stations across the country at retailers like Walmart, Safeway, Publix, Sam’s Club and Schnucks. CVS appears to be its only traditional retail clinic customer at the moment.

The second involves Greenway Medical – well-known developer of electronic health records for a variety of healthcare organizations, including Walgreen’s Take Care Clinics. It currently has placed its PrimeSuite EHR in more than 700 Take Care pharmacies, and just this week announced plans to implement a custom EHR – WellHealth – to coordinate other types of care in Walgreen’s locations. I’m assuming the two EHRs will play nice with other from an interoperability standpoint. Implementation of all WellHealth systems is expected to be finalized by the end of next summer.

I can’t help but point out that both of these companies are based in Atlanta, and I know for a fact that their team members congregate at similar networking events, so I wonder if we’ll see some synergy between them in the near future.

In any case, if predictions of retail clinic growth prove to be true – a recent Rand Report notes that use of retail health clinics quadrupled between 2007 and 2009, and will continue to grow – it seems likely that we’ll see HIT companies popping up in clinics across the country.

On a completely unrelated note, my daughters and I joined the rest of my company’s team members at the annual Lekotek Run 4 Kids last weekend. We had a great time and enjoyed helping out a great cause. I was a bit apprehensive that my youngest would enjoy it. Before the race began, she came up to me with number in hand and asked, “Is it okay if I lose?” Happily, she declared herself a winner after crossing the finish line and receiving a medal along with her sister and all the other kids.

I wonder if this is a sentiment physicians in smaller practices sometimes have as they consider implementing an EHR in the hopes of receiving Meaningful Use incentive money. Do some just want to throw in the towel and “lose?” Do some not want to even start the race? I’m always looking for additional Meaningful Use wisdom from the under-6 set, so please enlighten me in the comments below.

EHR is More than Software

Posted on July 12, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the 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 and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Far too often when we talk about EHR, we mostly only talk about the software side of an EHR implementation. Certainly selecting the right EHR software is the most important part of an EHR implementation. It will guide and direct many of the other EHR implementation decisions. However, once you’ve selected the right EHR software, you need to make sure and give plenty of attention to the hardware side of an EHR implementation as well. Many don’t and suffer the consequences.

Yes, I know that many clinics and even some hospitals sit back and rely on their EHR vendor to walk them through all their new technical hardware needs. This can work out really well since the EHR vendor knows which hardware will work best with their EHR software. Plus, many EHR vendors have partnered with hardware vendors to provide a really seamless service to their customers. For example, we recently posted to the EMR and EHR video website some HP videos with their EHR partners Greenway and Quest Diagnostics. In fact, at HIMSS I learned about the HP EHReadySM Program which focuses on the seamless EHR implementation experience between EHR software and hardware. I was amazed by the number of EHR partners HP had.

Other clinics have their own in house IT support that deal with all of their EHR hardware needs. In some cases, the doctors themselves act as their own IT support. Regardless of how you approach your EHR hardware, here are some things to consider when it comes to hardware during an EHR implementation:

Consult Other EHR Physician Users – One of the best ways to learn what hardware you need for your EHR is to ask existing users of that EHR. Don’t ask a clinic that’s been using that EHR for more than a year. They’re likely using older hardware you can’t buy anymore and have also forgotten what they bought. Instead ask your EHR vendor for a doctor who’s been using their EHR for about a year.

Existing Infrastructure – Any vendor worth their salt is going to want you to use your existing infrastructure as much as possible. If you just bought a brand new laptop, then there shouldn’t be a need to replace that in order to use the EHR. However, be very careful that you don’t take this too far. I know many clinics who have tried to skate by on old hardware and made their EHR implementation miserable. They finally spend the $500 on a new desktop and EHR satisfaction skyrockets. For some context on when to invest in hardware, read these article on EHR performance issues and EHR slowness. Make sure your lack of investment in hardware isn’t the reason your “EHR is Slow.”

Financing – Yes, the cost of EHR software has dropped dramatically with even a number of high quality Free EHR software offerings. However, many doctors forget to add in the EHR hardware costs including: desktops, laptops, scanners, tablets, printers, cables, network devices, signature pads, cameras, etc. You can and should defray these costs with existing infrastructure as mentioned above, but that only goes so far. All of these hardware costs can add up and especially larger clinics might need to consider financing the cost of all this hardware.

Lifecycle Management – If you’re in a larger clinic you’re going to want to make sure you have a good lifecycle management plan in place for your hardware. A thoughtful replacement cycle for your hardware is so much better than unplanned hardware crashes with no budget plan to replace it. This replacement cycle should also correspond to your EHR vendors ongoing development plans. How much longer will they support your current hardware? When will they support the latest operating system?

Hire Great IT Help – With few exceptions, the best thing a clinic can do is to hire competent IT people to assist them with the selection and implementation of their hardware. A few doctors get a kick out of the latest IT. For the rest of the doctors out there (which is most of you), find great IT support. No, your daughter’s boyfriend who likes computers usually doesn’t match that description.

Hardware Takes Time – When planning your EHR implementation schedule, make sure you give plenty of time to implement the hardware side of the EHR implementation. It takes time to select the hardware, for the hardware to be delivered, for the IT people to implement, configure, and test, the hardware, etc. I’ve seen many EHR implementations delayed while they’re waiting for the hardware to arrive.

Those are a few suggestions to help you out. I hope that readers will offer other suggestions in the comments. My key message for this post is to not forget about the hardware side of an EHR implementation. EHR hardware is completely manageable if you deal with it early. If you wait or skimp, then it can wreak havoc on your EHR plans.

This post is sponsored by HP Healthcare, however opinions on products and services expressed here are my own. Disclosure per FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255.