By Ken Congdon, editor in chief, Health IT Outcomes
Last week, in my HIMSS11 post-show report, I referenced how HIMSS exhibitors were optimistic about the purchasing intentions of the healthcare decision makers that attended the conference. This week, more evidence emerged that points to strong health IT investment in the U.S., despite the weak global economy. This evidence came in the form of a report on the EMR market released by Kalorama Information, a market research firm that tracks trends in medical technology. The report, titled EMR 2011: The Market for Electronic Medical Record Systems, indicated that the EMR market grew to $15.7 billion in 2010 — a 13.6% increase over the previous year.
While considerable, the sector is actually growing at a slower pace than was originally projected by the firm. Kalomara originally predicted a 15% growth rate for the EMR market year-over-year in 2009 and 2010 (the market grew 10% in 2009 according to the firm). Kalomara reports that the slower pace of EMR adoption was a result of confusion on the part of physicians about meaningful use guidelines. The firm also believes that much of this uncertainty was dispelled last summer when the final rules for Meaningful Use guidelines were published. Kalomara expects accelerated EMR adoption and market growth over the next 24 months as a result. Based on the findings of the report, the firm expects 18-20% market growth in the EMR sector in 2011 and 2012.
While I agree that one major hurdle was addressed when the final rules for Stage 1 Meaningful Use were released last July, I would argue that a few others still remain — namely the fact that the criteria for Stage 2 and Stage 3 Meaningful Use have yet to be announced. This was a sticking point with several of the hospital CIOs and CMIOs I spoke with at HIMSS11. These health IT leaders were hesitant to implement a system for the long haul when they only currently know a fraction of what will eventually be demanded from the system. There was also fear in aligning with vendors today that may not be able to achieve Stage 2 and Stage 3 certification once the criteria has been released. Another potential obstacle is EMR ROI. While ARRA incentives are motivating most healthcare providers to invest in EHR technology, others aren’t taking the bait. Some health IT leaders argue that the current incentives aren’t worth rushing into an EMR installation that can actually end up hurting the productivity and profitability of the hospital or healthcare facility. These facilities are choosing to move at a pace that aligns with their own culture, goals, and objectives, to ensure the project is a success for the hospital and not just an initiative mandated by the U.S. government.
Will these obstacles impede the growth of the EMR market? Somewhat, but not significantly. There are several EMR capabilities (e.g. CPOE [computerized physician order entry], e-prescribing, etc.) that healthcare facilities know they need to implement that will keep the market growing strong. I’m just not sure this growth will be at an 18-20% clip. At least not this year. We’ll have to wait and see.
Ken Congdon is Editor In Chief of Health IT Outcomes. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.