HITECH impetus for 'fundamental' market changes among EHR vendors

The HITECH Act has spurred competition and innovation among electronic health record vendors and changed their business model, according to a new study published this month in the American Journal of Managed Care.

There have been many studies on how the Meaningful Use program has affected provider adoption of EHRs, but less information is available on how the program has impacted vendors. The researchers, from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and Surescripts, sought to evaluate whether there was a corresponding change in the EHR industry. They analyzed data from Surescripts' network and measured the number of active subscribers and certified vendors from 2008 through 2012.

They found that the program spurred EHR vendors to enter the market and to obtain certification. The top 10 vendors also incurred a faster growth rate, although not market share, with the market still "highly competitive." They also attribute changes in EHR design to HITECH, such as moving from stand-alone electronic prescription systems to full EHRs and from use of traditional software to Web-based EHR systems.   

"HITECH is driving fundamental market and industry changes that we believe increase the likelihood that physician use of EHRs will become a central component of how medicine is practiced," the authors said.

The researchers attributed the changes to three key components:

  • The financial incentives inherent in the program
  • The certification process, which reduced provider uncertainty about the products
  • The requirement for them to demonstrate meaningful use of the technology

"Tracking market behavior and EHR vendor activity over time may provide clues about the program's lasting impact," they concluded.

The study did not address whether physicians were satisfied with the systems. Many have suggested that current EHR design does not focus on improving their usability, which is a major reason why so many physicians are unhappy with their EHRs. The study also did not address increased frustration with the program itself and concerns about its continued viability.

To learn more:
- read the study

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