Physicians will benefit from EMR market consolidation
By now you’ve likely heard that Allscripts and Misys Healthcare are combining to create a new industry leader, with a client base of nearly one out of three practicing physicians in the United States. It’s a change that we believe brings our dream of an interoperable, connected healthcare system one big step closer to reality – and with it, the promise of improved care at lower cost for millions of Americans.
Given how much discussion the announcement has generated, I thought I would weigh in with my perspective on how this opportunity came together, and where we’ll head from here.
When I first met Mike Lawrie, CEO of Misys plc, the parent company of Misys Healthcare, we quickly realized that we had the same passion for improving healthcare and the same view of how it could be accomplished. What’s needed, we believe, is to bring the power of technology, which has improved quality and reduced costs in every other industry, to healthcare.
Our view is that healthcare is fundamentally an information business and that the challenge is how to deliver real-time information to physicians and caregivers to improve clinical care, gain efficiencies and take out cost. Both of us had done this in other industries and felt it needed to happen in healthcare. Not in the future but right now.
We also understood that to make this a reality, it would take consolidation and scale to drive the required investments. Why? Think about the market as a whole. Today, more than 150 vendors are vying to sell electronic health records to physicians. That’s a different EHR for every 3,500 physicians – the equivalent of having more than 85,000 different breakfast cereals lining shelves at the grocery store. By almost any measure, this is a fragmented market. And, while competition is good, fragmentation is not.
The sheer number and variety of EHR vendors, without any standards until CCHIT arrived, allowed for a lack of quality and made comparison shopping a full-time job for physicians. That’s especially true for the more than half of U.S. physicians who work in smaller practices without an in-house information technology specialist to do the shopping for them. Worse, the substantial number of smaller vendors makes it inevitable that many will not have the dollars to invest and may not survive, again increasing risk to the buyers and slowing adoption.
Fragmentation also drives up costs and reduces connectivity at a time when our healthcare system can least afford it. Hospitals who want to connect to physicians in their communities (which is increasingly common with the Stark rule changes) may have to build and maintain as many as 50 different interfaces – a cost that can run into millions of dollars. The largest hospital chains have already begun to drive standardization by limiting their selection to the two or three CCHIT-certified systems that have high KLAS ratings, a significant installed base, and the financial resources to continue to invest into the future.
But the most important benefit of consolidation is connectivity. In the cell phone industry, consolidation paired with innovation gave us universal connectivity, and that’s exactly what will happen in healthcare. Our merger is a big step in that direction. Allscripts and Misys Healthcare will do more than provide our joint client base access to a broader suite of highly complementary, industry-leading products. Eventually, all 110,000 of the physicians who use Misys systems today also will be able to interface with the more than 700 hospitals using our HealthMatics ED and Care Management solutions, the 6,000 extended care facilities connected to our care management discharge solution, and the 40,000 physicians using Allscripts Electronic Health Records, Practice Management, electronic prescribing, document imaging, physician education and other products. This will be especially valuable for Misys practice management clients who currently lack an EHR – 90,000 in all – and who we hope will buy ours, when the time is right.
In the long run, then, Allscripts will deliver interoperable IT solutions of the highest quality to 150,000+ physicians and thousands more clinicians in hospitals and post-acute facilities nationwide. As a result, roughly one third of the nation’s patients will feel safer knowing their medical records can follow them nearly everywhere they go – from their physician to the ER, to the hospital bed, and on into post-acute recovery.
Better information. Higher quality healthcare. An interoperable, connected healthcare system. All provided more cost-effectively. That’s our goal and why we came together. Personally, I can’t imagine a better outcome.
Glen Tullman is chief executive officer of Allscripts. He will retain that role with Allscripts-Misys Healthcare once the merger is consummated.