Outpatient EHRs and practice management nearing 'universal adoption' but MACRA is opening opportunities for vendors to stand out in replacement market

HIMSS Analytics' eighth annual PM/EHR study sees room for more turnover as physicians look for partners to help with clinical practice improvement activities.
By Mike Miliard
11:35 AM

After eight years of polling independent and hospital-owned physician practices about their implementation and purchasing plans for electronic health record and practice management technologies, HIMSS Analytics sees the space "nearing that universal adoption point," according to Director of Research Brendan FitzGerald.

Still, "there's been consistent turnover of roughly 15 percent over the past three years among survey respondents looking to either replace their current technology or buy net new," said FitzGerald. "So there is some opportunity out there."

What’s more, as practices large and small look to make sense of MACRA's Merit-Based Incentive Payment System and Alternative Payment Models, "the outpatient market certainly is going to need guidance in terms of how to adapt to those new regulations," said FitzGerald. "There are certainly opportunities for vendors to help out in that respect." 

For HIMSS Analytics' 2016 Outpatient PM & EHR Solution Essentials Brief, the research group polled 436 physicians, practice administrators and managers and other senior practice leaders about their IT usage and future plans for practice management tools and EHRs. The study also makes use of data from HIMSS Analytics LOGIC market intelligence tool, which tracks some 48,000 data points around adoption, vendor market share and vendor mind share for hospital-owned and free-standing practices.

It asked practices about their current needs, and about what might cause them to replace their current IT systems. It also sought input from respondents about their confidence level that existing technology could help with health information exchange, accountable care and the clinical practice improvement activities required by MACRA.

[Also: OIG: 60 percent of hospitals reported unplanned EHR disruption - before rise of ransomware]

"There was a new question we asked, in terms of strategic plans for clinical practice improvement activities," said FitzGerald. "We wanted to know what their practice needed from an IT standpoint to address those CPIAs, such as expanded practice access, population health management and care coordination.

"There are a number of these improvement activities associated with MACRA that physicians are certainly going to be aware of, and hopefully implement," he added. "But the largest one by far was health information exchange."

On that front, at least, "the level of uncertainty has certainly dropped, and there's an increase in people joining a hospital or health system HIE, or a state information exchange," said FitzGerald. "In that respect, I think the practices are headed in the right direction."

But whether it's the more established market of vendors serving hospital owned-practices or crowded and competitive field of companies aiming for independent shops, one thing is clear, he said: practices are looking for vendor partner to take an active role in helping them navigate this new regulatory reality.

"Physicians and practices will certainly need a lot of help in terms of meeting these regulations and keeping up to speed," said FitzGerald. "The vendors will need to play a large role in that. And if they don't step up, there's potential there for a replacement market to develop that's larger than what's currently out there."

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com

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