News Feature | May 6, 2014

EHR Vendors Missing Out On ACO Opportunities

By Megan Williams, contributing writer

ACO Opportunities For EHR Vendors

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides for the establishment of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) as part of its plan to decrease healthcare costs. The ACOs overall incentivize providers to keep patients healthy, but they also represent a new class of customer for EHR solutions providers — the  ACA provides financial incentive for healthcare providers who are making efficient use of electronic records to curb Medicare costs.

Unfortunately, physicians are reporting that their needs are being poorly addressed.

EHR Vendors Falling Short

KLAS research interviewed 46 physician-led ACOs to find out how their record needs were being met by both EHR and niche ACO solutions providers. Of the healthcare providers surveyed, 68 percent said they used a third-party ACO solutions provider instead of an EHR vendor. When it came to service rankings, the ACO solutions providers beat out their EHR counterparts in all functional areas, including connectivity, care management and reporting, and scored significantly higher in risk stratification. The report states that "overall, EMR vendors are not ready for prime time, rating on average 6.3 on a 9.0 scale for meeting ACO needs…"

An Expected Outcome

None of this is surprising to anyone who’s kept up with industry developments around EHR use in ACOs. As far back as 2012, the lack of population health management information in the records themselves was addressed in the NEJM.

According to health IT consultant, Shahid Shah, some of the most glaring areas where EHRs were lacking were

  • An ability to automate patient outreach and engagement
  • Clinical analytics and reporting
  • Data integration and sharing among providers
  • Sharing of financial and billing data among disparate organizations
  • The ability to generate work lists

Deviation From The Rest Of Healthcare

While the rest of healthcare IT is moving toward more integration, KLAS also reports that ACO healthcare providers are continuing to look to best-of-breed solutions providers to fill their electronic record needs.

The largest vendors have been in a push to portray themselves as specialists, but this hasn’t changed ACO solutions providers winning out in the EHR system vendor contest.

An additional KLAS study (Accountable Care Timing 2013: Migration from Volume to Value Speeds Up), covering 73 organizations (mostly integrated delivery systems and hospitals), highlights the fact that healthcare providers see accountable care as inevitable.

Mark Allphin, research director at KLAS, and report author, is quoted as saying, “This is a major shift from what we are seeing in most healthcare IT areas. What we are seeing in many areas is a migration toward integration. The fact that providers tell us that they will be looking to niche vendors over their EMRs tells us that the ACO market very likely is still up for grabs.”

ACO’s Real Needs

Though published in 2012, Shah’s original recommendations for where growth in EHR is needed still rings true. eClinicalWorks is leading the pack as a favorite for population health management among ACO providers, but there is undoubtedly room for any vendor willing and able to go beyond “ACO in a box” packaging, and consider truly integrated EHR solutions for healthcare providers who elect to join ACOs.