More EHR consolidation with increased innovation?

While many new vendors are currently jumping into the growing electronic health record market, the number of EHR offerings will shrink in the future as companies merge or acquire each other.

That's the skinny from Bloomberg Businessweek, which predicts that "tech investors and entrepreneurs see a gold rush akin to the social media boom" with about 750 companies having recently entered the market to offer EHR products.

However, Bloomberg reports that the rapid increase of vendors into the market will cause the industry to consolidate to capture a greater percentage of the market, and evidence points in that direction, with McKesson acquiring Portico Systems and Aetna buying Medicity.

Some vendors may try to stay afloat without consolidating by selling doctors add-ons such as practice management, voice recognition and other services and products. Bloomberg points to drchrono, which maintains electronic medical records for free, but charges monthly fees for billing and transcription services.

Not everyone agrees that consolidation is inevitable. EMR and HIPAA blogger John Lynn wrote back in July that many of the doctors he's spoken with would rather have their own EHR than a mainstream system. "[M]any people argue that there's only going to be three to five EHR vendors left standing after the mass EHR consolidation [or EHR vendor failure]," Lynn wrote. "I just don't believe that's the case. If we get down to 100 EHR companies, I'll be impressed."

Substantial consolidation isn't likely to be immediate, though, notes Bloomberg, since the technologies of different systems are still not standardized, and changing EHR systems is expensive.  

To learn more:
- read the Bloomberg Businessweek article