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Additional EHR System Features, Interoperability Top 2018 Trends

EHR system features, the need for digital patient engagement, and the federal push for nationwide interoperability are top trends set to impact the EHR market.

ehr system ehr interoperability

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth Snell

- There are five key areas that EHR vendors should focus on for the rest of the year to stay competitive, including focusing on specific EHR system features, the continued push for interoperability, and patient engagement needs, according to a recent market report.

The EHR market is set to increase from $29.7 billion to $39.7 billion by 2022, Kalorama Information found. Additionally, the physician and web-based side of the market will grow in excess of 8.5 percent between 2017 and 2022. 

Market growth has been slow, but “the promise of stimulus funds is realized and the threat of penalties in 2017 and beyond” should help the growth continue, Kalorama explained in a statement.

Additional features compiled in an EHR system is one area that will drive the market growth.

“The benefit of component tools such as CPOE, e-prescribing, image archiving and decision support, have become clear to end-users, and they may prefer to have them as an integrated suite of applications,” researchers explained. “The availability of all these tools on an integrated platform greatly reduces compatibility issues that end-users face. Nearly 80% of EMR users used CPOE for pharmacy, radiology or lab orders according to HIMSS data.”

READ MORE: 3 Key Tips for Ensuring a Smooth EHR Replacement Process

This point was further proven in an April 2018 Black Book survey, which found that specialty EHR product categories were given the highest physician practice satisfaction scores.

Single-solution offerings that integrate EHRs, focus on revenue cycle management, or utilize coding and practice management tools will likely lead the way for specialty practices in 2018, Black Book noted.

“It’s clear that even in this tightening and increasingly complex ambulatory EHR market, specialist-centric vendors that innovate through integrated EHR, RCM, Coding and PM tools are continuing to lead the small specialist practice market,” Black Book Research Managing Partner Doug Brown said in a statement.

Kalorama also explained that digital patient engagement has been slow to progress, but it is something that more healthcare organizations will likely need. Providers must employ the right tools, but software providers will also have to shore up their patient portal offerings “to meet the needs providing a broader engagement model that focuses on a collaborative patient health record.”

Patient data access is an increasingly popular issue across the industry, especially with CMS renaming its EHR Incentive Programs to “Promoting Interoperability” in April 2018. The move was done to reflect the agency’s focus on improving health data exchange and patient data access.  

READ MORE: CMS Accepting New Promoting Interoperability Measure Proposals

Furthermore, the MyHealthEData and the Patients Over Paperwork initiatives are designed to encourage providers to share information with patients to have improved ways of engaging individuals in their care.

The Trump Administration wanting increased transparency and interoperability was the third key area Kalorama highlighted.

ONC announced in 2016 and 2017 that an overhaul of the EHR process would let ONC “directly review all certified EHR and health IT and call for corrective action when necessary.”

“Additionally, the ONC will be able to create its own certified test laboratories to examine the health technology. Essentially, this new rule will create an authorization and oversight paradigm,” researchers said. “The recent statements from the Trump Administration at the HIMSS meeting indicated the administration is focused on interoperability, even at the point of fining for non-compliance.”

Following the initial April announcement on Promoting Interoperability, CMS issued a request for information (RFI) to further advance the MyHealthEData initiative. The agency said it wanted “feedback on positive solutions to better achieve interoperability or the sharing of healthcare data between providers.”

READ MORE: ONC Working with Health IT Innovators to Improve Interoperability

“CMS is requesting stakeholder feedback through an RFI on the possibility of revising Conditions of Participation related to interoperability as a way to increase electronic sharing of data by providers,” CMS stated. “This will inform next steps to advance this critical initiative.”

Healthcare organizations are seeking out EHR vendors that will do more than just “install [an EHR system] and forget it,” Kalorama noted. Vendors need to be able to implement “a full range of technology solutions that help to solve real business problems.”

Inefficient workflows and lacking functionality are some of the top reasons why a healthcare organization may opt for an EHR replacement, found an April 2018 a literature review published in AHIMA’s Perspectives in Health Information Management.

Even though the replacement process is expensive, organizations will be willing to make the switch because of their current lack of value in an EHR system that does not meet their evolving needs.

“The cost of switching systems can seem excessive, often in the millions, when the cost of the new system is coupled with the cost of its implementation; however, health systems must remember that the benefit to the patient is the main priority,” report authors wrote. “Some practices have found that the functionality of the new system increases the level of care the patients receive by speeding up communication.”

Finally, Kalorama said EHR vendors should understand that the physician office is a top area for EHR growth. Large EHR companies, such as Epic, Cerner, and Allscripts, often take up the majority of market share, but smaller practices also have specific needs that can be met with the right EHR system.

“Vendors are attempting to diversify and deliver an application service provider or a remotehosted model to be able to help especially larger practices reach out to smaller physicians and address their needs,” Kalorama stated. “The physicians' market for EMR is expected to witness the maximum growth. As of 2017, the adoption of EMR in office-based physician practices was less than in hospitals growing significantly over that past two years.”

Smaller acute care hospitals accounted for 80 percent of the decisions for contracting a new EHR, a May 2018 KLAS report found. Over half of the hospitals that signed a new EHR contract in 2017 opted for a less expensive or less resource-intensive platform, such as athenahealth, MEDITECH, and Cerner and Epic community deployment models.

There is a large customer base for EHR vendors, and they will all have varying degrees of technological needs, especially as interoperability and health data exchange continues to grow nationwide. Companies must ensure that they are taking note of healthcare needs with EHRs, and are working to offer applicable options that will help ensure patient care without over burdening providers.

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