Report: Hospitals and vendors, not government, will drive EMR usage

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The nation’s capital can encourage physicians to buy EMR systems, but it is the vendors and hospitals that affiliate with physicians that will ultimately determine if they go electronic, according to a new report from healthcare market research publisher Kalorama Information.

The report represents the second time this year that the Washington, D.C.-based Kalorama has surveyed EMR markets and is a reforecast of its predictions from earlier in the year, made before the U.S. government announced the Health IT for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act incentives for physicians who use EMRs.

According to the report, the EMR market will earn about $13.8 billion for 2009, but still has further room for growth. Small group or solo practice-based physicians have fewer savings to reap than large healthcare systems, but the change in their workflow will likely reduce short-term productivity when they make the switch, according to Kalorama.

The announcement of government incentives of up to $18,000 in increased Medicare payments to doctors for the meaningful use of EMR has created interest. However, according to Kalorama, these incentives represent future payouts for EMR systems that physicians have to pay for today, at a time when patients are paying bills slower, expenses are up and some physicians are laying off staff.

Kalorama expects the emulation of health systems such as North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in New York City, that  offer up to $40,000 over five years to its affiliated (not employed) physicians who implement EMR systems.

The report also noted that vendor actions have piggybacked on the government incentives, enhancing their effect. Offering “stimulus guarantees,” where the vendor assures the customer that the system will earn stimulus incentives from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), has garnered interest.  Athenahealth, ChartLogic, e-MDs and GE Healthcare, are among vendors who have adopted some form of this strategy, according to Kalorama, who expects vendors to go further, offering aggressive financing and/or installment of the capital outlay to attract small group practices.