Don't let meaningful use dictate EMR choices, IDC tells small practices

By Mike Miliard
11:01 AM

A new report from IDC Health Insights rates the best EMR vendors for small physician practices -- and warns that the short-term incentives of meaningful use shouldn't overshadow those offices' long-term care strategies.

The study, "IDC MarketScape: U.S. Ambulatory EMR/EHR for Small Practices 2012 Vendor Assessment" assesses 11 products from nine vendors aimed at helping small physician practices qualify for meaningful use incentive money. In its report, IDC weighs in on which vendors are well-positioned today through current capabilities – and which are best positioned to gain market share over the next one to four years.

[See also: SaaS EMRs gaining favor, says KLAS.]

Vendors included in the report are: ADP AdvancedMD, Allscripts, athenahealth, eClinicalWorks, Greenway Medical Technologies, LSS (MEDITECH), Lumeris, Optum (OptumInsight) and Practice Fusion.

IDC experts say they expect the U.S. market to move from less than 25 percent adoption in 2009 to more than 80 percent adoption by 2016. That growth will be primarily influenced by regulatory stipulations and government incentives under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

But additional trends will include the quality of care improvements that result from using EMRs/EHRs in ambulatory practices, their growing capabilities and use of cloud computing, the use of mobile devices in ambulatory practices and the consolidation of provider vendors as market saturation increases, according to the report.

ARRA offers "an unprecedented opportunity for providers in small practices to garner federal incentives for demonstrating meaningful use of clinical applications that will help to improve the quality of care, enhance patient safety and prepare their practices for the future," said Judy Hanover, research director at IDC Health Insights.

But EMR technology – to say nothing of the many federal requirements and deadlines for achieving meaningful use and the disruptions of business, workflow and practice patterns necessitated by its adoption – can "present complex issues and challenges" for small physician practices, she said.

"If providers allow the constraints of meaningful use to dictate their technology choices and limit the goals for implementation," said Hanover, "they may only see the short-term incentives and not the long-term strategic advantage that an EHR can bring to their practices and may fail to compete under healthcare reform."

[See also: Practice execs stress over EMR, cash.]

With hundreds of small practice EMR/EHR vendors participating in the market, IDC officials say the vendors included in the report were carefully selected to include the top five market leaders in the U.S., and a selection of additional vendors that offer compelling technology, strategies or services, such as advanced software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings, innovative pricing or service options, platforms or architecture capabilities.

The report seeks to highlight the attributes and key capabilities physicians should look for when selecting an EMR/EHR, and offers a guide for using best practice-based approaches to leveraging an EMR/EHR to build competitive advantage in small practices.

Each product was evaluated against 25 criteria in two category measures for success: strategies and capabilities. Within each of these criteria, IDC Health Insights has weighted specific features of the product or the product's vendor that are particularly significant for purchasers of the software and for users. As part of its evaluation, IDC included customer references for all of the products included in the assessment.

Access the IDC Health Insights report here.