U.S. Hospitals Ramp Up Use of Electronic Health Records

28 Feb

Finally FastTechnology News from the Finally Fast Team

According to Harvard researchers, as of 2009, it was estimated that approximately 90 percent of U.S. hospitals had implemented many of the various clinical IT systems that underlie the core functionality that comprise electronic health records (EHRs). However, only around 12 percent of hospitals were using what could be considered either a basic or advanced EHR, and only 2 percent of those hospitals were using EHRs in a way that would qualify for Meaningful Use. Since 2009, hospitals’ interest in EHRs has skyrocketed, primarily due to financial subsidies provided by the U.S. government’s Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, as well as myriad other factors contributing to a dramatically changing reality for all healthcare providers. The rate of hospital EHR adoption is expected to expand significantly over the next several years, particularly for advanced EHRs designed to meet Meaningful Use criteria.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan’s U.S. Hospital EHR Market, 2009-2016: Charting the Course for Dramatic Change research finds that the market earned revenues of $973.2 million in 2009. Total market revenues are expected to peak at $6.5 billion in 2012, primarily due to new licensing and upgrades as hospitals scramble to get certified EHR systems in place. Revenues are expected to retrench some after 2013 due to increased market saturation and growing price competition.

The core hospital EHR market is considered to be mature and dominated by a handful of well-established, relatively entrenched vendors.  However, it is still a highly dynamic market in the sense that increasing provider consolidation, customer dissatisfaction with high prices and poor usability, and uncertainties around the financial and logistical impact of healthcare reform do present new opportunities (and risks) for both existing vendors serving the market as well as new vendor entrants with niche products or services.

The HITECH Act of 2009 allocates around $30.0 billion dollars to drive various efforts around health IT. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) of 2010 is designed to reform health insurance and improve access to care for millions of Americans by 2014. In addition, new federal rules around electronic data interchange (EDI), patient privacy laws (HIPAA), and disease classification and coding (ICD-10) all have near-term deadlines that add to healthcare providers’ need to purchase various new IT products and services. Healthcare providers of every type and size are installing new IT systems or upgrading legacy systems to prepare for a new environment that puts greater emphasis on quality-based reimbursement, coordinated care, and growing patient engagement with health IT.

In order to comply with Meaningful Use as stipulated by HITECH, hospitals must install new certified EHR systems or upgrade legacy systems in order to qualify for subsidies and avoid financial penalties scheduled to begin in 2015.

“It is hard to precisely gauge how beneficial the actual stimulus funds will be for individual hospitals,” said Frost & Sullivan Industry Analyst Nancy Fabozzi. “Most hospitals may end up paying more than they earn. However, the prospect of Medicare penalties is very significant, especially in light of numerous other financial constraints facing hospitals today. The majority of hospitals have little choice but to do their best to adopt EHRs, and do so rather quickly. It is this reality that is driving dramatic growth in the market today.”

EHRs will occupy a central role as the entire U.S. healthcare system undergoes sweeping structural changes that will impact every aspect of the way we pay for and deliver health services. IT solutions like EHRs are key tools that will help enable this transformative change. Innovative health IT solutions promise to improve patient safety and reduce many of the financial and operational inefficiencies that have plagued the system for so many years.

While the expanding use of EHRs is expected to continue to provide diverse and robust opportunities for many market participants, continued success is not a given—even for well-established vendors. As health IT use grows, so too does customer sophistication and market competition.

“Continually connecting solutions and services to customers’ needs is crucial, particularly during the near-term when many customer challenges will be most pronounced,” said Fabozzi. “While many hospitals have already picked their key clinical systems vendors, it does not necessarily mean they will stay with these vendors and it does not mean opportunities do not exist for other market participants. Vendor displacements will be a natural side effect of changes in provider ownership and management.”

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