Allscript’s Tullman: Community, connectedness will lead to innovation

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Allscripts (NASDAQ:MDRX) CEO Glen Tullman took a turn for the personal as he wrapped up his speech at the CED Venture Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina this week.

To make a point about patient education, he discussed how he and his wife subscribe to Google alerts about juvenile diabetes to keep up on the latest studies and developments. Their son has the condition and Tullman has been public about his advocacy for research. Tullman serves on the board of directors of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Tullman said that after a year or two of regularly reading the alerts, he found that he knew much more about the latest research than his son’s doctor. The anecdote made a couple of Tullman’s main points. First, we live in an information age for healthcare. And second, the access to that information helps all of us become interconnected as a community. Tullman called it “a community of health.”

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Allscripts is a juggernaut in the electronic health records community. The company is digesting a $1.3 billion merger with Eclipsys, a deal that married the ambulatory-based systems of Allscripts with the hospital-based systems of Eclipsys. Allscript’s software is used by 180,000 doctors, 1,500 hospitals and 10,000 post acute-care facilities. Allscripts’ annual revenue tops $1.3 billion.

EHR represents a major opportunity for health IT vendors. Kalorama Information projects that the EHR market will top $4.85 billion by 2015. Tullman said as the community of health becomes better connected, innovation will be nurtured. That, he said,  is what happened in other industries. With that, he brought up a PowerPoint slide showing logos for Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, Google, eBay and YouTube, examples of companies whose innovation and market successes were fostered by the community connectedness brought about by the Internet.

Tullman’s argument is logical, but it’s also worth noting he didn’t put up the logos of Netscape, AOL, or numerous other once-promising companies who benefited early from greater connectedness, but did not keep up with market changes. Innovation by itself doesn’t lead to longevity.

With software that serves 180,000 doctors, it’s hard to argue against the strength of Allscripts’ current position. But the Venture Conference is a gathering of entrepreneurs and innovators. I can’t help but wonder about the source of the next health IT innovations. Tullman insists it will happen. I’m sure it will. But it won’t necessarily come from Allscripts. By Tullman’s logic, there’s an equal chance that the next breakthrough EHR innovation could very well come from one of the small, startup companies at the Venture Conference set up in a booth in the next room.

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By Frank Vinluan

Frank Vinluan is the North Carolina Bureau Chief for MedCity News.
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