Could Amazon or Apple actually make a dent in the EHR market?

The space is ripe for disruption, but switching vendors is difficult and that will make building a new electronic health record platform, and convincing customers to adopt it, a long and uphill battle.
By Bernie Monegain
10:09 AM
Will Apple enter EHR market

What with rumors swirling that Apple and Amazon are each considering ways to drive deeper into healthcare, including EHRs and telehealth, it’s time for a reality check.

The central question is whether even technology stalwarts such as Amazon, Apple and their ilk could, in fact, build an EHR from scratch and then gain enough market share to make the whole endeavor a worthwhile investment.

Yes, if anyone could accomplish that feat, Amazon and Apple are chief among them. But there’s more to it.

It is perhaps a telling indication of how difficult the task would be that one EHR vendor CEO actually said he welcomes Apple and Amazon into the marketplace.

[Also: eClinicalWorks CEO Girish Navani speaks: 'This chapter has to be closed']

“I love competition,” eClinicalWorks chief Girish Navani said. “Would you prefer the Super Bowl be played with only one team showing up and the trophy being handed out after 60 minutes? No, competition makes everyone better.”

Navani added that he doesn’t have any insights about Amazon or Apple’s EHR plans. “If they want to do that, great. We believe in our innovation cycles as well, and as long as the industry moves forward we will have a share.”

Two prominent industry analysts said that any play for a significant piece of the healthcare sector by these two tech giants – such as building a new EHR – would likely prove dubious.

"It will be an uphill battle, especially if they try to compete in the larger segments of the market," said Bryan Fiekers, Senior Director of Research Services at HIMSS Analytics. "If ever there was a long play, this would be it."

John Moore, founder and managing partner of Chilmark Research, added that many enterprise technology titans have struggled to tackle the healthcare IT conundrum.

“Think Microsoft, Google and IBM with very mixed success,” Moore said. “Thus, it is difficult to get too excited about rumors around Amazon and Apple's potential plays in this market sector.”

It’s worth pausing to note that what has thus far been reported is based on unnamed sources — meaning neither Apple nor Amazon has formally revealed any intentions to build an EHR.

That means whatever work the vendors are doing, even if it is currently on developing electronic health records software could, in time, take on a different shape than the EHRs companies like eClinicalWorks, Epic, Cerner, Allscripts and athenahealth -- which financial analysts said Apple should acquire -- currently offer today.

Indeed, rather than trying to displace the current crop of EHRs, Chilmark’s Moore speculated that the companies would likely target the next level above the EHR to enable consumers to better control their own health data.

“Having aggregated this data,” Moore said, Amazon or Apple could potentially repurpose health data, with consent, for research such as drug development or patient reported outcomes.

Healthcare IT News editor-in-chief Tom Sullivan contributed to this report. 

Twitter: @Bernie_HITN
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