Healthcare Consolidation: Five EHR Implications for Health Systems and Medical Practices

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Market share is the name of the game.

We are watching healthcare mergers and acquisitions hit headlines week after week. The race for large organizations to grow larger and smaller organizations to gain in size quickly is fueled by a desire for increased market share, new customers, greater negotiating power, and access to new technology. For physicians and advanced practice providers, the decision to merge with a system is often the result of financial pressure and changing reimbursement structures. It’s not just EHR’s or hospitals linking arms, we see it in every sector of the industry.

Amazon bought PillPack earlier this summer. CVS and Aetna merged this fall. Veritas Capital purchased GE’s Centricity earlier this year and followed in mid-November by announcing it will acquire Athenahealth. Baylor Scott & White are merging with Memorial Hermann to create the largest health system in Texas.

If this is taking place in your periphery and you feel little impact directly, we would encourage you to consider the following five implications.

Transition is coming.

Whether your organization merges with another or your vendor(s) merge, there will be few health systems and medical groups that are untouched by consolidating healthcare organizations. Data migration, mapping terminology, and fine-tuning new workflows will be inevitable. Fewer EHR systems in the marketplace could make it easier to integrate with other complementary systems at some point, like billing and patient engagement, but these transitions will take a long time to streamline and migrate. This is why Relatient has developed over 86 backend integrations with all the major EHR’s presently in the market; this makes it possible for health systems and medical groups to maintain seamless patient engagement throughout transition.

Amazon’s acquisition of PillPack is just one reflection of healthcare consumerization.

This shift will continue thanks to the abundant information patients now have at their fingertips and the speed at which they have learned to expect products and services. Two decades ago, switching providers meant faxing or carrying hard copies of your records to a new doctor. Deciding who to trust with your medical care meant talking to your neighbors and co-workers and asking for recommendations in person, email, or over the phone. Today it’s as simple as asking your Facebook network, you’ll have 20 recommendations within 10 minutes of your inquiry. As patients continue to drive a healthcare revolution, health systems and medical groups need to be strategic and forward-thinking as they consider how to engage their patients and offer 24/7 access so they don’t get left behind.

Regulatory compliance looms, consolidation could help.

HIPAA, TCPA, and CAN-SPAM are just a few of the communication-related regulations that health systems and medical groups have to be cognizant of. The good news is that compliance is easier to manage with fewer vendors, so EHR consolidation could help. This makes it more important than ever to choose vendors who offer comprehensive tools and platforms in their space.

Your patients don’t care about your vendors, your EHR, or your business strategy.

They care about having access to the right healthcare provider when they need it, seamless communication (sans usernames and passwords), help staying current with their care, and a way to pay their bills and leave feedback that feels second-nature. Easy, right? It really can be. In fact, keeping these elements intact while navigating new ventures and business relationships can shield your patients from change and keep them engaged over the long-term. A good vendor doesn’t just check a box, it gives your an organization a competitive advantage and improves an organization’s brand among staff and the population it serves.

You need to choose systems you can trust.

In speaking with a long-term healthcare veteran last week, she told me, “I hear healthcare professionals describe manual processes they can’t let go of because they don’t trust their systems to do what they promise”. You don’t have time for this kind of redundancy, healthcare is changing too fast and you won’t be able to keep up if you’re duplicating work. The reality is more complicated, trust takes time and it’s not foolproof — sometimes it’s easier to just “love the one you’re with” or keep doing the work. It’s important to vet your vendors well and partner with those who are experts in their space and will faithfully support their products and services after the sale. The vetting process is rarely enough, we’ve all had vendor regrets. Choose a vendor that continues to build trust through transparency and process without letting go—best practice is a daily email summary of automated activity so that issues are quickly seen and addressed.

Make text, email and voice an integral part of your patient engagement.