Wow, will wonders never cease: Allscripts suddenly heard about ARRA (it's been a well-kept secret, huh?), and started looking for an acute-care EHR to buy and sell with their solid ambulatory EHR product. Allscripts couldn't afford Cerner, Siemens & McKesson are also too big, and Francisco Partners beat them to QuadraMed. So I guess that left Eclipsys.

Truth is, they're a bit late to catch the "feeding frenzy" for ARRA stimulus dollars. Our consulting firm does primarily systems selection and contract negotiations and our business nearly doubled last year as hospital after hospital called us for help in buying an EMR. Even small Critical Access Hospitals under 25 beds caught the bug (no IT pun intended) and went shopping for blue light specials (Wal-Mart does sell eClinicalWorks, ya know). This year, the buying market is still hot, but, just like Y2K, this boom will bust in a year or two, which is about how long it will take the two firm's techies to figure out each other's data bases, programming languages and operating systems.

Yes, they both use Microsoft's .NET technology, but remember how bad Eclipsys stubbed its toe with their "XA" release a few years back when they rushed it to market? Or how long it took Siemens to perfect Soarian, McKesson to finish Paragon, or Cerner to deliver Millennium?

About a millennium for all 3! So Allscripts will have its hands full building an inter-company HIE/RHIO among their Atlanta, Raleigh and Chicago offices.

Not to totally pooh-pooh the deal: the best way in the world to build an interface is when the two systems are both owned by the same company. Then, the executives can order the two programming teams to cooperate, something hospitals have a devilish time doing when they are a third party paying both to please talk to each other and cooperate. I am sure Allscripts & Eclipsys will have their two EMRs talking much faster than some poor hospital that bought vendor A's acute care EMR and Vendor B's ambulatory EMR. And I hope they don't have the nerve to charge their clients for the "integration" either--it is one company now, isn't it?

So what's my prognosis? Hats off to the brilliant executives at Eclipsys who worked so hard for so many years to build such a solid company and product that they managed to sell it for over a billion dollars, at the all-time peak of the clinical system market. And, my best wishes to Allscripts to give Epic Systems and others some true competition in the physician-centric world of selling to hospital C-suites.

Now let's all sit back and enjoy Allscripts' ads, press releases and PowerPoints explaining how much better their truly "integrated" products are than those that were bought up by other vendors.


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