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Posts Tagged ‘Axolotl’

Acquisition fever has set in and they’re dropping like flies, independent HIE vendors that is. Earlier today, Siemens announced its intent to acquire enterprise HIE vendor MobileMD. So in little over a year we have seen IBM snag Initiate, Axolotl fall into the hands of Ingenix/United Health Group (Ingenix is now known as OptumInsight), Medicity tie the knot with Aetna, Harris pick-up Dept of Defense clinician portal darling Carefx and Wellogic, a damsel in distress, being rescued by Alere. Elsevier also announce an intent to acquire dbMotion for a whooping $310M, but nothing came of that other than a substantiation of the rumor that dbMotion was being shopped.

That does not leave many small, independent HIE vendors that have some traction left in the market. Following is our list of such vendors and what might become of them:

4medica: A relative new comer to the HIE market, 4medica will be profiled for the first time in the upcoming HIE Market Trends Report which is scheduled for release in early 2012. 4medica is quite strong on lab information exchange. Future: 4medica still remains under the radar screen as it completes its platform to truly serve all HIE needs. Once that process is complete, the company is likely to gain increasing attention and will be acquired in 18-14 months.

Care Evolution: Privately owned and self-funded, founder has every intent to stay independent. As he has told us on more than one occasion, I’ve already made plenty of money and this is not about cashing out to the highest bidder. Future: Everyone has a price but this company may be one of the last to fall into the arms of another.

Certified Data Systems: Appliance (think small router with embedded HIE functionality) HIE vendor that has close, yet non-exclusive partnership with Cerner. Would not be surprised if they struck a similar deal with Epic as Epic struggles to connect to EHRs outside its system. Future: Fairly new to the HIE market but gaining traction. Will stay independent for next 12-18 months, after that, anyone’s guess.

dbMotion: One company already made a bid, but pulled back, thus pretty clear this company will be acquired, question is how much and we suspect it will be significantly less than what Elsevier was planning to pay. Future: If price is right, could be acquired at anytime.

HealthUnity: Small HIE vendor from the Pacific Northwest that made a big splash when with Microsoft (Amalga UIS) they won the big Chicago HIE contract. Future: With Microsoft cozying up close to Orion, HealthUnity will be looking hard for other partners and/or to be acquired. Will give them 12-18 months as an independent.

ICA: Another small HIE vendor that has had a few wins here and there but will come under increasing pressure from larger, better funded HIEs. Future: Likely to be acquired in next 6-12 months, maybe even earlier.

ICW: InterComponent Ware is a German HIT company and a sizable one at that with over 600 employees. To date, ICW has a very small presence in the US HIE market so an acquisition, if there were one, would have little impact.  Future: Their foreign ownership, size and interests in several health related markets make them an unlikely candidate for acquisition.

InterSystems: Arms dealer to all, InterSystems Cache and Ensemble are widely used in the market and the company has built upon these core technologies to get into HIE market. Future: Fiercely independent and senior team is basically the same since founding this company will remain independent.

Kryptiq: Having signed a strong partnership deal with Surescripts, Kryptiq is unlikely to be interested in any acquisitions talks. Future: Will remain independent for time being and if Surescripts’ Clinical Interoperability solution gains significant traction, Surescripts will likely acquire Kryptiq outright.

Orion Health: New Zealand-based, privately owned with good prospects in markets beyond America’s shores, this company will likely want to stay independent (future IPO) unless of course a very large software company (think IBM, Microsoft, Oracle etc.) gives them an offer they can’t refuse. Future: Will stay independent.

Getting back to the Siemens/MobileMD deal…

While we have not had an opportunity to talk with either Siemens or MobileMD (will provide follow-on update once we do) here are some quick take-aways:

Siemens has chosen to buy. This is unlike other EHR vendors who have either built their own HIE solution (athenahealth, eClinicalWorks, Epic, NextGen) or have partnered with others (Allscripts, Cerner, GE).

Existing partner doesn’t cut it. Siemens has an existing partnership with NextGen for ambulatory but NextGen’s HIE is a closed system. This prevented Siemens from being able to leverage this partnership to serve their client needs, which most often includes a multitude of EHRs in the ambulatory sector to interface with.

Lacked sufficient internal resources. By buying into the market, Siemens has signalled that it does not have the development resources to respond quickly enough to customer demand (not too surprising, Siemens has been struggling in the North American market for sometime). This also signals that they could not find the right partner outside of their NextGen relationship, which is a tad puzzling as we are quite sure they paid a premium for MobileMD.

Paid a premium. We estimated MobileMD sales in 2010 just shy of $8M in our 2011 HIE Market Report. HIE vendors are selling at a premium, even second tier ones such as MobileMD. Assuming industry average growth in 2011 (we peg it at 30%) that would give MobileMD sales of ~$10.5M for 2011. We put the final strike price for MobileMD at $95-110M.

Existing MobileMD customers relived. Unlike the acquisitions of Axolotl and Medicity, which both fell into the hands of payers, MobileMD is going to a fellow HIT vendor which must assuage the fears of more than a few MobileMD customers and prospects. Siemens intends to keep MobileMD whole, bringing on-board MobileMD’s president and founder, again contributing to continuity.

ADDENDUM: Please excuse our lack of posting on industry trends in a more frequent manner. Like many in the healthcare sector, Chilmark Research is struggling to keep up with demand and recruit top-notch resources. We seem to have hit our stride in this market, are receiving countless engagement inquiries and engaging in most of them. All good problems to have, but you dear reader are the one who ultimately suffers from our lack of posts. Thank you for your patience to date and know that we are doing our best to keep you informed with some of the best research and analysis of this critically important and meaningful market.

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Last week was the massive Salesforce.com user conference Dreamforce (massive in that there were more attendees at Dreamforce then this year’s HIMSS!). We’ve been reviewing more than a few articles and writings written by those who attended the event. In the few short years of its existence (~13yrs) Salesforce.com has become one of the leading Customer Relationship Management (CRM) vendors in the market and basically pushed the previous leader Siebel to the brink and into the arms of Oracle. Salesforce is arguably the leader in the Software as a Service (SaaS) market and thus someone to pay close attention to on all things “Cloud Computing.”

So what makes Salesforce.com so compelling and what are some parallels to the healthcare sector?

Similar Market Demographics: From the beginning Salesforce has always been structured as a SaaS and targeted the hard to reach and highly distributed sales forces of companies of all sizes. Actually, they first targeted the small to medium business (SMB) market and once successful there, went after Siebel in big enterprises. In healthcare, the vast majority of care is provided by small, 1-3 physician practices that are highly distributed across the country – perfect target for a hosted SaaS offering.

Deliver Value, Not Pain: Since most sales people get a large portion of their salary via commissions, the last thing they want to do is hassle with software that is cumbersome to use. Salesforce.com’s user interface (UI) is very intuitive and surprisingly customizable (within limits) for an SaaS offering. This allows a sales person to configure the the solution to their specific needs. We hear time and again from physicians that the EHR they are being forced to use doesn’t fit their workflow and is often painful to use. (Having been demo’d more than our fair share of EHR solutions, it still shocks us just how awful the UI is for these solutions.) Like their sales brethren, physicians need solutions that fit their processes and do not slow them down.

Fold in Rich Communication Tools: At this year’s Dreamforce, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Beniof spend a substantial amount of time focusing on the rich communication tools that Salesforce is embedding to tap the move to social networks. Right now, the US Government is dumping over a half billion dollars to stand-up HIEs in every State and enterprises are easily spending double that amount to facilitate information exchange in support of referrals, lab distribution, orders, etc. What if a Salesforce for healthcare arrived on the scene allowing physicians to securely exchange information in the same manner that those on Salesforce.com use that platform for secure ad hoc communication with internal and external partners to meet customer needs?

Provide Robust Security – No Leakage: Sales leads are a sales person’s bread and butter and they guard them with their lives for it truly is their livelihood. Thus, Salesforce had to build a system that ensured a sales person’s leads were their own with no possibility of a breach (leakage) to a competitor. If Salesforce can meet this strict requirement, is it such a stretch to preserve the integrity of personal health information (PHI) on such a system?

Focus on the Data & Deliver Simple Yet Useful Analytics: Sales is often a numbers game. This requires superior, robust data management and ultimately the ability to create a wide variety of pre-configured and customizable reports. As we move towards value-based contracts, providers of all sizes will be asked to provide reports as well (typically on quality metrics) to those paying the bills (CMS, payers, etc.).

Provide an Ecosystem: Salesforce has a vision to provide an ecosystem of third party apps on top of their platform but to date, like most companies, they have struggled to make much headway here. But in time, as more and more IT functions move to the “Cloud” to support an increasingly mobile device centric world, an ecosystem is inevitable. In healthcare, where one might successfully argue that physicians are one of the most mobile of professions, accessing apps via mobile devices is quickly becoming standard practice. Increasingly, the healthcare market and in particularly those far-flung physician practices, will look to ecosystems of apps delivered over the Web to their mobile device (touch-screen tablet) to support their practices.

Adhere to KISS Principle: Like sales professionals and for that matter just about any other professional worth their salt, physicians in private practices are extremely busy and the last thing they need is to fuss around with software maintenance and upgrades. Subscribing to a SaaS takes that big upgrade headache and slams it with a double dose of Excedrin.

This got us to thinking…

Who in the Healthcare IT (HIT) market might become the Salesforce.com of HIT?

EHR Vendors:
We can’t think of a single vendor in the EHR market that has the foresight, the vision, the chutzpa to pull off a Salesforce.com move. Sure, one can point to PracticeFusion (who happens to have received backing from Salesforce) but we don’t see the vision there. What about athenahealth you might ask? Yes, they like to portray themselves as such, but honestly, their bread n’butter solution is not a SaaS play but more of a straight services play delivered via the Internet and a lot of old school back office processing in a warehouse in Maine. All the other EHR vendors? Either they’re too small to matter or chained to their legacy business models that they can not break free of to deliver the scale and gravitas of a Salesforce.com like solution for healthcare.

HIE Vendors:
Increasingly, HIE vendors are providing simple EHRs targeting ambulatory practices, they certainly have the information exchange piece covered (to highly varying degrees) are beginning to fold in analytics (big reason why UHG acquired Axolotl) and some are looking to provide an ecosystem play such as Medicity with its iNexx platform, Covisint with its AppCloud or even Microsoft’s somewhat aborted attempt with Amalga. Yet, despite these efforts, we do not see any one HIE company really grasping the reigns and running away with the prize. Each of the aforementioned vendors have their own reasons why they haven’t quite captured the imagination of the healthcare sector and we are not holding our breath waiting for someone to breakout.

Others:
Emdeon has a huge presence in the market as a clearinghouse for claims processing and having just been taken private by private equity firm Blackstone, they may try to make such a play. At the most recent HIMSS sat down with Emdeon for a briefing where they hinted to a desire to move more directly into clinicals, but to date, we’ve seen nothing materialize and it is unlikely to happen anytime soon. Emdeon also has the very real issue of their existing business model (did you no their number one capital expense is postage stamps?) that will keep them on the sidelines.

NaviNet is similar to Emdeon in that they already have a direct connection into the physician’s office with some one million plus healthcare providers using their service. NaviNet has the links but it does not appear that they want to get into the nitty gritty of providing a host of other services and offerings on top of their existing platform. It appears that NaviNet will add small incremental services to their platform rather than go for the whole enchilada keeping the platform simple and streamlined.

Surescripts is making a play in the HIE market with its Kryptiq partnership offering the Clinical Interoperability platform. While still early in its development. the Surescripts play is the closest thing we have seen to date to match the existing Salesforce juggernaut and the one to watch.

Now we certainly do not claim to have all the answers, never have. That is why we have a comments section below. So dear readers, we’ve given you are analysis and now it’ your turn. Who do you think is in the best position to become the Salesforce.com of the HIT market?

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Trash Talk vs. Reality

Spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) is one of the most common sales tactics used against a competitor. I’m never surprised to hear some FUD being thrown around at a major trade show like HIMSS, but this year it seemed to be particularly virulent among the many vendors I spoke to, which did surprise me. In a market that seemingly has nearly unprecedented money flowing into it, why all the trash talk? The only rational I can come up with is that all that money flowing into healthcare IT is also attracting far more competition from ever bigger players with greater resources.

For example, a little over a year ago the HIE market was comprised of very small vendors, the majority with sales in the $15-25M range. Today we have IBM, who acquired Initiate, Ingenix, who acquired Axolotl, Aetna who acquired Medicity, GE who is partnered with ICW, Surescripts, who partnered with Kryptiq, Thomson Reuters who is partnered with Care Evolution, Microsoft with their Amalga platform, Emdeon, who rolled out their HIE solution at HIMSS’11, and Harris Corp. who announced they will acquire Carefx. This is clearly a white hot market and one that will only see more consolidation in the coming year.

Getting back to the point of this post…

One rumor I heard over and over again was that Medicity was seeing a major push-back by clients and prospects as a result of their acquisition by Aetna. Several vendors told me that the Pennsylvania HIE contract (PHIX) that was going to Medicity had been torn up due to Medicity’s new ownership structure. I was also told that several other Medicity contracts were also in jeopardy. (Note: heard nearly an equal amount of similar rumors for Axolotl, who’s parent is United Health Group.) Now this may all have some truth to it, but it is important that anyone listening to these rumors must consider the source and do their own background check.

It appears that Vermont has done just that for today they awarded the State HIE contract to Medicity. Vermont Information Technology Leaders Inc., (VITL) has been operating a pilot HIE in the State for nearly five years, using technology from GE Healthcare (it was a relatively simple document management solution) so it is with some surprise that the incumbent, GE, who has been investing heavily in updating their HIE solution suite did not get the win.  Another company that was likely bidding for this contract is Covisint, who recently won the contract for Vermont’s Blueprint for Health. Since there will be a direct link between VITL and Blueprint, again a bit of surprise that Covisint did not win this contract either.

So what does this tell us?

1) Despite all the rumors and trash talk not everyone is listening.

2) The fear that payer ownership of an HIE vendor will result in a sales slide for the HIE vendor may be misplaced.

3) Decent, proven technology (and likely very aggressive pricing) can overcome a lot of FUD.

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The long awaited, dare I say anticipated HIE Market Report is now complete and ready for purchase. This report, arguably the most comprehensive report yet published on this rapidly evolving market (116pgs, 21 vendors profiled, 0ver 25 tables and figures) will provide the reader with a detailed portrait of today’s HIE Market, its leading vendors, and the capabilities that they bring to market. Here’s the HIE Report’s Table of Contents (warning PDF).

The report is the culmination of interviews with countless HIE stakeholders, from State and regional officials, to healthcare CIOs, consultants and of course the HIE vendors as well. Combining these interviews with our own methodology for secondary research, the report comes presents a number of findings including:

  • A definitive classification schema of current HIE vendors that will clarify what appears at first glance as a very convoluted market.
  • The transition that is occurring as vendors move from SaaS to PaaS models and its future impact on the market.
  • The clear differences and similarity of needs of Enterprise and Public HIEs.
  • An HIE Maturity Model that will help adopters of this technology better understand the transitions that will be needed as their platform matures over time.
  • Comprehensive profiles on 21 leading HIE vendors including rankings on a number of HIE attributes as well as market presence.

If you are involved in any aspect of the HIE market, you would do your company a favor by purchasing this report. Really, it is that good.

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Just as we are trying to put the final touches to the forthcoming HIE Market Report, another major HIE vendor gets acquired and again it is a very big fish swallowing a small and very pricey little fish. Geez, they are making our life difficult here at Chilmark.

This morning, Aetna announced that it will acquire Medicity for some $500M.  With United Health Group’s Ingenix acquiring Medicity’s top competitor, Axolotl earlier this year and now Medicity being picked up, the HIE market is going through a major upheaval with few, (one could even argue none) strong, independent HIE vendors left.

Chilmark Research will reach-out to both Medicity and Aetna to get their take on this acquisition as well as competing vendors as this really is a pretty big deal for all players in the HIE market.

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Last week, Ingenix announced that it would be acquiring Axolotl.  Probably no one was happier than the folks at Gilat Satellite Networks who had invested $4.5M in Axolotl over ten years ago, had written off that investment during the dot-com bust in 2001 and now is looking at getting some $24M in cash plus another $3M by year’s end.  Gilat receiving $27M from the sale of Axolotl (we estimate Axolotl’s sales in FY09 to be about $15-18M) signals only one thing: Ingenix paid a kingly ransom to acquire Axolotl, in excess of 8x 2009 sales.

This begs the question: Why did Ingenix pay so much for such a small HIT vendor?

Having interviewed a couple of Axolotl competitors about this deal and completing a briefing call this morning with Ingenix executives Bill Miller, EVP for Provider Solutions and Art Glasgow, CTO along with our broader analysis of the market, vis a vie the forthcoming HIE Market Report (yes, its coming, really it is), following are some thoughts and perspectives.

Ingenix is a company that grows by acquisition having acquired some 50+ companies since 1996. Since the beginning of 2010, the company has made 5 acquisitions already and based on the call with Ingenix today, there will be more. Miller stated on the call that Ingenix has primarily served the payer market but sees a convergence of administrative and clinical processes, thus has been making targeted acquisitions in the provider HIT market (e.g., CareTracker, a PM/EMR solution, Picis, an EMR for ED, QualityMetric for outcomes measurement) and now Axolotl. Miller inferred in the call that part of its provider acquisition strategy is to acquire companies with strong brand recognition in the provider market. Clearly, Axolotl has that in the HIE market, particularly among publicly-led HIEs, or RHIOs.

As one competitor put it: “Ingenix bought into the market.” And as another one stated, (Axolotl’s top competitor): “We are very happy.” Ingenix paid heavily for brand and for an established presence in the market (Axolotl has roughly 250 hospitals using their Elysium HIE platform and currently support four state-wide HIEs). As an independent company similar to Axolotl, the second vendor must be seeing the potential for a very large pay-out should they be acquired, thus not too surprising that they would be happy with this deal. But that second vendor may also be developing a slightly nervous twitch as very large players with deep pockets such as Carlyle Group (they own Carefx), GE, IBM, McKesson (owners of RelayHealth), Microsoft, Thomson-Reuters (partner with Care Evolution) and now Ingenix enter the HIE market. Let’s not count out the EHR vendors such as Cerner, Epic, and others who are also developing their own HIE solutions. The writing is on the wall: In five years time there will no longer be small, independent HIE vendors.  Those independent HIE vendors that survive will be a division of a far larger company.

During our call with Ingenix, Glasgow stated that Ingenix’s core competency is analytics and this is the focus of internal R&D expenditures. For all other HIT application areas, Ingenix would rather make an acquisition than organically build. Coupling Ingenix’s analytical capabilities with Axolotl’s Elysium platform creates some intriguing possibilities both from the perspective of Ingenix selling more of its portfolio in a larger more comprehensive HIE platform sale, but also creating the possibility for the HIE organization to create a sustainable model for future viability as articulated in an Ingenix White Paper (caution PDF). With forthcoming changes in healthcare via reform, new payment models etc., analytics will become an increasingly critical need for providers and HIE vendors are ideally positioned to provide such capabilities. Yet based on our research, virtually all HIE vendors have weak analytics capabilities. Microsoft is one of those at the forefront in this area with their Amalga platform, but their overall HIE solution is still a work in progress.

Glasgow also went on to state that Ingenix sees the HIE market moving to a PaaS model and Ingenix will continue to support Axolotl’s current development efforts to open up its APIs to third party vendors. The move to PaaS in the HIE market is still a nascent trend but one we believe will stick. Chilmark is planning to do a deeper dive on the subject in a future report. In the near-term we will be talking to Medicity later this week getting a deep-dive briefing on their forthcoming iNexx platform, which is at the forefront of among HIE vendors in creating a PaaS for the HIE market.

Some Challenges:
With any acquisition, there are always challenges, from alignment of staff (and even rationalization), to setting priorities for future R&D, to soothing customer and prospect fears as to what the acquisition means to their current or future investment. Challenges we foresee include:

Recouping their investment. Ingenix paid dearly for Axolotl, a company with a strong brand in the market, but also a company with an older platform that has proven difficult for some to implement and maintain. Axolotl clearly recognizes that Elysium needed to be re-architected and is well down the development path to address this need. Thus, Ingenix needs to continue to invest in Axolotl beyond the purchase price to insure Elysium transitions to a modern platform to support a PaaS model. This is not easy work, nor is it inexpensive and it is likely that there will be changes to Axolotl’s pricing structure to compensate for this investment.

Quelling market fears, part one. Ingenix has a mixed history with providers, having been sued by the NY Attorney General, and dragged before Congress last year for reportedly providing data to payers that shortchanged patients and providers. Ingenix has tried to come clean on the issue, but it has left a bad taste in the mouth of many. Now that Ingenix is jumping into  the very public arena of HIE, they will need to convince state agencies, providers and consumers that their intentions are noble, that data will be used to help improve care and ultimately outcomes while insuring that personal health information will remain secure and private.

Quelling market fears, part two. An acquisition nearly always generates some consternation on the part of existing customers and future prospects, with the number one issue being: Is their investment safe (i.e., the acquirer will not sunset the product and continue to invest in R&D)? With over 50 acquisitions in 14 years, Chilmark assumes that Ingenix is pretty savvy at how to acquire a company, leverage the assets, keep customers happy and build from there. But against that backdrop, Ingenix must address a market that has a lot of concerns over vendor/product viability. It is incumbent on Ingenix to educate the market that it indeed has a clear strategy for Axolotl and its Elysium platform. That the strategy aligns with market needs. that it includes continued support (R&D $$$ to modernize Elysium) and that they will continue to offer the level of support (if not better) that customers have come to expect from Axolotl.

Final Assessment:
Ingenix’s strategy for the HIE market is in very close alignment with what Chilmark Research is seeing as well: The move from simple messaging, i.e., pushing lab data around, to higher order capabilities such as analytics and the move to a PaaS model for HIEs.  While these are clearly the future trends for HIEs, the timing as to when these trends take hold is still very much in question.  The HIE market remains convoluted, messy and difficult, if not near impossible to make sense of.  Adding to the issue of complexity is market maturity wherein many buyers are often just looking for the most basic of capabilities.  Even Axolotl recognizes this releasing Elysium Express a few weeks back to address this basic market need.  Hopefully, Ingenix is a very patient company and fully understands the nature of the market it has just paid a princely sum to enter as it may be sometime before they recoup their investment in Axolotl.

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The first major distribution of HITECH Act funds occurred a couple of weeks ago when HHS awarded nearly $1 billion for HIT initiatives including $386 million to 40 states and territories to help establish public Health Information Exchanges (HIEs).  This represents the lion’s share of the original $564 million allocated for Statewide HIE development under ARRA.

Sixteen states did not receive funds including some of the largest states (by population) including Texas, Florida, and New Jersey.  Other states not receiving funding in this first round include: Alaska, Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, and South Dakota.  These states will likely receive funding in the next round.  Additionally, there were a couple of awards that were bizarre including minor awards (~$700k) to some U.S. territories including Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Marianas.  Almost kind of inevitable it seems when the federal government gets involved in handing out large amounts of cash.  Everybody wants to make sure to grab their respective piece of the pie however small it may be.

Funding Requirements (or how to get the $$$):

In its Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) last August 2009, the ONC identified 5 “Essential” Domains for HIE funding:

  • Governance
  • Finance
  • Technical Infrastructure
  • Business and Technical Operations
  • Legal/Policy

The ONC expectations were that states will define objectives, set goals, and measure progress within the context of these five domains.  This also includes the submission of a plan, approved by the Department of Human and Health Services, that describes the activities to facilitate and expand the electronic movement and use of HIE according to nationally recognized standards and implementation specifications.

To specifically get the funding, states had to submit an initial application by October 15th to the Department of Human and Health Services.  Additionally, states also have to submit a Strategic and Operational Plan.  The Strategic Plan contains the State’s vision, goals, objectives and strategies for statewide HIE including the plans to support provider adoption.  The Operational Plan contains a detailed explanation, targets, dates for execution of the Strategic Plan.  Basically, states applying for funding fell into 3 general groups:

  • States with no existing Strategic Plan – These states needed to provide a detailed description of activities to develop Strategic and Operational Plans by October 15th.  Subsequently, the state is expected to develop and submit their initial Strategic and Operational Plans within 6 –8 months of receiving their funding.  A limited number of states fell into this group including Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, New Hamphsire, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.
  • States with existing Strategic and/or Operational Plans that are not consistent with ONC criteria – These states submitted existing Plans with a detailed gap analysis compared to ONC’s criteria and a plan for revision by October 15th.  Subsequently, these states were to submit updated Strategic and Operational Plans in alignment with ONC criteria within 3 months of funding.  Almost all of the states fall into this category with about half needing to further align their Strategic/Operational Plans with ONC criteria required prior to the Implementation phase and the other half needing additional planning efforts required prior to the Implementation phase.
  • States with existing Strategic and/or Operational Plans that are consistent with ONC criteria – These states submitted their Plans for approval by ONC, including a description of health IT implementation to date and the plan for continued implementation. Only 4 states (Delaware, Idaho, New Mexico, Utah) submitted Operational Plans by October 15th.

Once the State’s Strategic and Operational Plans are approved, the State is free to begin to use the HIE funds for ‘Implementation purposes.’  From a Technical perspective, this means that the State can use these funds to select a vendor, sign a contract and begin actual development of the HIE infrastructure.

Impact on HIE Vendors

Several states, including Alaska, Maryland, and West Virginia, assumed future funding was in the bag and released RFPs in the later months of 2009.  Now that the awards are official, states across the country (and territories) will work with consultants to finalize their Strategic Plans and begin looking for an HIE vendor. In total, about 20-22 states are expected to issue RFPs for technical infrastructure over the next 6-12 months.

This is creating a giant land grab as vendors vie for position to tap this windfall of State HIE funding.  Some of the RFPs, such as the one from West Virginia in late November, elicited interest from dozens of various Health IT vendors.Officials from the West Virginia Health Information Network stated they received a ‘significant number’  of responses to their RFP although they refused to cite the exact number.

Confusion Abounds

All of this activity is creating a great deal of confusion in the market for those looking for an HIE solution.  HIT vendors of all strips are now claiming to be HIE vendors to tap into this new found source of funding.  One could even argue that IBM’s recent acquisition of Initiate was to some extent prompted by all this activity in the HIE market.  While numerous  HIT vendors  claim they have an HIE solution, only a handful have a solution that meets current and immediate future needs of the statewide HIEs.  Most others have specific HIE functionality elements, but not necessarily the full solution package.  Our forth-coming HIE Market Report (hope to have it on the streets by end of March) will seek to provide clarity by providing a market classification schema.

Vendors are also facing several challenges responding to these RFPs, primary among them, little commonality from one state to the next.  The most obvious one is that each state has their own unique approach to their technical architecture. They range from Idaho with its desire for a single statewide network (Idaho Health Data Exchange) to Indiana with multiple, independent, local HIEs, and no statewide architecture. Additionally, most states are issuing RFPs that include a number of use cases that go beyond just basic data exchange functions.  While the statewide HIEs obviously need to plan for the future, it is creating uncertainty among vendors in how they respond and price their solutions given that some of the use cases outlined in an RFP may never be implemented.

While being rewarded with a statewide HIE contract represents a significant win for a vendor, especially for smaller vendors, the real value (i.e., money to be made) is not from the initial contract of simply ‘connecting the pipes.’  The long-term value will come from deploying higher-value add applications and services such as analytics, quality reporting, transactional services which typically are 5x-7x more lucrative than basic data exchange services.  Data exchange is but the «tip of the iceberg» to far more lucrative opportunities and is why vendors are competing so hard for these contracts.

No Clear Leader

Our research has not identified any clear leader in the state HIE market today. Part of the reason for this is that few states have begun the process selecting an HIE vendor, let alone go live with a solution. If pressured, we would give the leadership crown to Axolotl who has had almost a singular focus on such public exchanges and now supports 4 statewide HIEs. Axolotl’s leadership, however is a tenuous one as there are several other vendors with at least one statewide HIE client including Medicity, Intersystems, and GE Healthcare. This market is clearly one that is wide open and we foresee significant activity in the coming 9-12 months.  Let the Great Land Grab of 2010 commence!

Note to Readers: In giving credit to where credit is due, Matt Guldin, who is leading Chilmark Research’s HIE research for our forthcoming report, authored this post.  Thank you Matt for a very informative post.

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