Look at the Health Information and Management Systems Society’s HIMSS 2012 online buyer’s guide for Web-based or cloud electronic health record (EHR) vendors, and many familiar names come up. One does not: General Electric Co.
Last month GE dropped Centricity Advance EHR, the cloud EHR it introduced following its acquisition of MedPlexus Inc. less than two years ago. Citing information from GE Healthcare, HIStalk notes that the cloud EHR will be shut down June 30, with users able to access information in read-only format until Dec. 31.
As John Lynn points out, GE still has three EHR offerings, including the Centricity Practice Solution that users of Centricity Advance will be nudged toward. While HIStalk says GE will cover a practice’s data migration, training, and implementation costs, a physician who emailed Michael S. Barr, M.D. at the American College of Physicians calls the move “the ultimate bait and switch.” (Centricity Practice is GE’s ambulatory EHR software for organizations with up to 100 physicians, while Centricity Advance targeted practices with fewer than 10 docs.)
Lynn suspects that GE is betting that smaller practices, in evaluating the changing health care landscape, will choose to join an accountable care organization over remaining independent — and, in joining an ACO, will be plugged into an EHR system. Whether this bet will pay off remains to be seen.
The news doesn’t just affect GE’s cloud EHR customers. Barr wonders, rightly so, if practices will be hesitant to invest the time and effort in cloud EHR implementation if there’s a decent chance that the vendor will go belly up.
There’s also the issue of meaningful use. Since meaningful use requirements get increasingly complex over time, it’s certainly in a practice’s best interests to work with a vendor that’s in it for the long haul. However, meaningful use — and, for that matter, health information exchange — doesn’t seem to be a huge motivating factor for cloud EHR users, who, at a fundamental level, just want electronic health records. Plus, as Barr points out, incentives for meaningful use and e-prescribing, taken together, still won’t cover the cost of cloud EHR implementation.
Take all this together, and it means any provider speaking with an EHR cloud vendor at HIMSS 2012 should be prepared for a lengthy conversation. With the market in flux, and the future cloudy (sorry), providers can’t afford not to.