Analyst sees growth in EMR market, but not hyper-growth

By Heather B. Hayes Government Health IT

The physician-based electronic medical record (EMR) market is growing at a fast pace, but not as fast as many in the industry would like to believe, according to a market analysis by the consulting firm of Frost and Sullivan. The findings are based on a study of metrics, including vendor sales data and end-user surveys.

Steve Tobin, a Frost and Sullivan industry analyst who authored the report released Feb. 21, estimated that EMR adoption is climbing among all sizes of physician practices, with an overall market growth rate of about 20 percent.

“There’s strong technology growth, to be sure, but we’re still talking about a multiyear, even decade-long implementation for the entire market,” Tobin said. “EMR solutions will continue to have a lot of market penetration, but it’s just not as hyper-growth as some people have speculated that it is.”

Early adopters and larger practices are driving much of the growth, he said. In smaller practices, the slow materialization of financial benefits from EMRs frequently reduces the incentive to buy. However, “current [vendor] offerings are providing different business models, such as the ASP [application service provider] model, which may help penetrate financially restrained practices,” Tobin said.

Still, Tobin said he believes doctors in small practices are beginning to recognize the efficiency, clinical improvement and potential financial benefits of EMRs and are becoming more sophisticated in their knowledge. When these physicians decide to buy, they tend to demand integrated solutions from vendors, he said.

Also, many vendors are getting ahead of themselves by pushing the quality capabilities of EMR solutions; most physician practices are not ready for that step in the technology evolution, according to the report. “Those with that level of sophistication are very few in the market at this point,” Tobin said. “Most physicians are still grappling with implementation, getting used to it, doing the basics and getting their practice involved with it.”

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