EHRs Could Create All New Problems for Healthcare

Electronic healthcare records, or EHRs, have been touted as an industry must for years. They are an important feature of the Affordable Healthcare Act and strategies to improvement outcomes and control costs. Hospitals alone have spent collective billions on adopting technology. Doctors, clinics, labs, and other providers have made their own large investments.

However, the industry may become a victim of disruption, according to top healthcare IT executives, as reported by HealthData Management. EHR technology, which has been available for many years, hasn’t been uniformly adopted yet and potential usurping technologies and practices are racing along.

While the market is being dominated by major vendors now, Eric Topol, MD, recently said he anticipates radical change ahead. “I don’t see Epic, Allscripts or Cerner in existence in another decade,” Topol contends.

Joel Selanikio, MD, sees the rationale for Topol’s prediction. As healthcare morphs from an emphasis on institutional care to empowering consumers to become active participants in maintaining their health, current vendors need to change or risk irrelevance.

For example, various smartwatch and smartphone vendors are creating devices that can monitor physical functions and then store the data in a cloud. The leading companies in these spaces like Apple dwarf Allscripts, Cerners, or Epic in annual revenue. They have the allegiance of staggeringly large blocks of consumers who have grown accustomed to trusting the firms with their personal data.

“What’s most interesting is that they are pulling stuff out of the healthcare system,” [said Joel Selanikio, MD, a pediatrician and former epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control]. “Things that used to happen in the doctor’s office or physical therapists’ office are now being provided outside the traditional healthcare system. Consumers can diagnose their own problems, with devices that use artificial intelligence, and prescribe a treatment for themselves. Artificial intelligence is the turbocharger for this new growth.”

Some in healthcare might dismiss the possibility as unrealistic. However, to ask how anyone could expect people to so completely change the way they undertook important actions is to ignore common examples. Amazon helped change the way people buy and sell goods. Consumers readily do their banking business on smartphones, even capturing pictures of checks and submitting them without entering a branch. Governments have enabled people to register cars and renew drivers’ licenses online. Many people even buy groceries with their phones and have the goods delivered to their homes.

What if Apple or Microsoft or Samsung or Google bought one of the largest EHR vendors and made data access and storage free to consumers? There have been unsuccessful efforts so far, but that doesn’t mean big companies won’t keep trying and eventually succeed. Care providers and healthcare software vendors might find themselves necessarily looking for compatibility with some giants setting standards.

There could be some significant benefits for healthcare, like enforced standards to allow easier interconnection of systems. But the risks of being beholden to large companies and needing the “right” compatible software would be significant.

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