Recent reports show electronic health records sales ramping up sharply in coming years, along with a reality check on why those sales are being made.

According to HIMSS Analytics, a Chicago-based research firm with a database that tracks hospital use of I.T., 86 percent of hospitals today are not in position to qualify for the first of three stages of EHR meaningful use criteria, which start in 2011. But 51 percent of hospitals are close to meeting the first criteria stage and receiving incentive payments, and another 17 percent are a year or two behind.

Kalorama Information, a New York-based research firm, estimates the total EHR market in 2008 for hospitals and ambulatory providers was $12 billion. The firm expects the market will more than double to $25.3 billion by 2013, with a 2009-2013 compound annual growth rate of 16.2 percent. These numbers cover only clinical information systems.

Preliminary results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's annual national survey of office-based physicians show a large increase between 2008 and 2009 in physician practice adoption of EHRs. Some 20.5 percent of surveyed physicians reported using a "basic EHR" in 2009, up 23 percent from 2008. Use of a "fully functional" EHR rose from to 6.3 percent from 4.4 percent in a year, a 43 percent increase.

Systems defined as basic EHRs display patient demographic information, problem lists, clinical notes, orders for prescriptions, and laboratory and imaging results. Fully functional systems also include medical history and follow-up, orders for tests, prescription and test orders electronically sent, warnings of drug interactions or contraindications, highlighting of out-of-range test results, and reminders for guideline-based interventions. The annual CDC survey includes mail and in-person surveys. Preliminary 2009 results reflect only respondents to the mailed survey.

Frost & Sullivan, a Mountain View, Calif.-based research firm, estimates physicians and other ambulatory providers spent $1.3 billion in 2009 solely for EHR software licenses and basic training. That does not include hardware, installation, security tools and ongoing support. Frost & Sullivan estimates ambulatory EHR software spending will double to $2.6 billion by 2012 and reach $2.9 billion in 2013. Sales will then fall to $1.9 billion in 2014 as physicians working toward EHR meaningful use essentially will have spent most of what will be necessary to get there, says Nancy Fabozzi, senior industry analyst.

--Joseph Goedert

 

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