High demand for health IT consulting

Demand for health IT consulting has “exploded,” according to a new report from research firm KLAS, driven by meaningful use, health information exchange and ICD-10.

Meaningful use, HIEs and ICD-10 drive the market

The added work anticipated from meaningful use requirements, the pressure to achieve data sharing and the clock ticking toward the 2014 deadline for conversion of diagnostic and medical billing codes from ICD-9 to ICD-10 code sets has driven the demand for consultants, creating what some call a boom.

"Demand for meaningful use help has exploded, increasing competition between third-party consulting firms  -  most of whom are excelling in MU-related work," according to a new report from Orem, Utah-based research firm KLAS.

Most providers have not attested for meaningful use Stage 1, most frequently citing quality measures and reporting as their biggest challenges, the report notes. That has them increasingly reaching out to consultants for assistance, according to the report "Rapid Growth of Meaningful Use Consulting: Why Providers Are Reaching Out."

"User adoption, software upgrades and updates also rank high among the challenges providers cite for implementing electronic medical records," wrote Erik Westerlind, senior research director and author of the report.

One CFO said, "We were struggling to do the implementation ourselves, and I ultimately bit the bullet and hired [a consulting firm] to come in and help us get our act together. It turned out to be one of the best decisions of my professional career."

KLAS identifies a total of 51 firms that have conducted at least one MU-related project, engaging in everything from strategic advisory services and lead roles in implementations to supporting implementation engagements and to implementation and staff augmentation projects. Most firms are performing well and are satisfying healthcare provider expectations, according to Westerlind. More than half (61 percent) of the ranked firms in the KLAS report achieved a score of 89 out of 100 or above. 

Beyond attesting for Stage 1, healthcare providers are looking to consulting firms to partner with as they navigate years of upcoming regulations and potential policy changes, according to the report, Westerlind said.

Another recent report from KLAS focused on the demand for health information exchange (HIE) consultants, noting that providers were increasingly hiring consultants to help them join an HIE, usually tapping a firm they had worked with in the past. 

"HIE consulting firms are being chosen based primarily on providers' prior relationships with the firms, the firms' reputation for having high healthcare and regulatory expertise, or the HIE vendors' recommendations," said Westerlind.

ICD-9 to ICD-10