As required by legislation in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), HHS/CMS released rules for the meaningful use of certified EHRs before the end of 2009 (late the afternoon of Dec. 30th). Others have already written plenty on what is actually stated in these rules, therefore, let’s take a look at the potential winners and losers of these new rules as well as those where it is still too early to tell. This analysis will be laid out over the next few posts starting with Winners below.
Consultants: At 556 pages, very few physicians and hospitals will take the time to read the complete meaningful use rules, rather hiring consultants to guide them in mapping out a strategy to adopt and implement a certified EHR to meet these requirements in the tight time-frame allowed. Hospitals and large private practices will have the resources to hire such consultants, small practices will not, instead relying on the yet to be formed statewide extension centers.
Payers: Demonstrating meaningful use will require electronic eligibility checking and claims submission for 80% of all patient visits. This will greatly simplify payers cost burden for payers who must currently contend with eligibility checking by phone and mountains of paper claims submissions from providers.
Large, Established EHR/EMR Vendors: These vendors have the resources and political clout to insure their apps will meet certification requirements. They will meet such requirements either through internal development or acquisitions. In some cases, partnerships will also be used to meet smaller, niche requirements of meaningful use. Big boys with an established presence include: AllScripts, Cerner, Eclipsys, Epic, GE, McKesson, NextGen, Siemens, etc.
Revenue Cycle Management (RCM) Vendors: Core to most RCM vendors solutions is the ability to perform electronic eligibility checking and e-claims submission. As this is now a core requirement for incentive payment, these vendors will see a boom in business. Smaller, independent vendors such as MedAssets and SSI will likely be acquired. Large vendors, such as Emdeon, may expand their offerings into core EMR functionality similar to what athenahealth has done with the introduction of athenaclinicals. Companies such as RelayHealth should also see a bump up in business as providers look to address this requirement.
Medication Checking Reconciliation & eRx Apps: A significant amount of attention is being paid to addressing medication errors and e-Prescribing (eRx) in Stage 1 of the meaningful use rules. The HITECH Act legislation specifically calls out eRx as part of meaningful use and CMS has been promoting/encouraging adoption as well so this is a no-brainer. The big winner here is SureScripts. Medication/formulary reconciliation is also called for in Stage 1, something that the Joint Commission has been advocating since 2005. Several eRx and EMR apps have embedded this functionality in their solutions. Lastly, physicians and hospitals will be required to do drug-drug, drug-allergy and drug-formulary checking. Companies such as First Data and Thompson as well as Cerner’s Multum solution should do well in addressing this requirement. There are also a plethora of smaller companies, such as enhancedMD, Epocrates, Medscape, etc. that may benefit, through partnerships with or acquisitions by larger HIT firms.
M&A Firms and Small, Innovative Software Companies:: Stage 1 is asking for a lot of functionality that simply does not exist in many EHR/EMR solutions. Larger, more established EHR/EMR companies will not have enough time to build out all the functionality required and will either seek partnerships or acquire smaller, niche vendors such as those mentioned previously (our bet is we’ll see more acquisitions than partnerships). Due to the strong demand for niche applications to fill gaps in their solution portfolios to meet Stage 1 requirements, these EHR/EMR vendors will likely pay premium dollars for the best-in-class apps. Small, innovative software vendors and the M&A firms that represent them will do well over the next few years.