MedCity Influencers, Health IT

In consumer-centered healthcare, are EMRs a threat to providers’ survival?

As the health industry follows the immutable laws of consumer behavior, does the electronic medical record become a “dungeon of doom” for the physician practices and healthcare facilities that use them?

Digital Hospital

Life was good in the grand old days of physician-centric care; the same days when a bigger bookstore was a competitive advantage.  “Our mega-store has a larger inventory and a coffee shop.  How can the corner bookstore compete?”  Fast-forward and how can a mega-bookstore compete with a virtual bookstore that has a limitless inventory of books and titles? Now, big-box retailers like Best Buy are feeling the pain of the virtual world.  High cost, massive footprint physical stores with corresponding labor costs find themselves filling the role as demo sites. The buyer armed with new hands-on intelligence gained from the retailers in their community goes home, gets online, finds the best price, and two days later their purchase is on their doorstep.

As the health industry follows the immutable laws of consumer behavior, does the electronic medical record become a “dungeon of doom” for providers?  The new world of healthcare is grounded in “healthcare everywhere”.  The consumer of health services is conditioned by 21st century expectations of convenience, accessibility, affordability, and quality.  Unlike other industries shaken to their core by automated transformation, healthcare has the additional ticking time bomb of cost shifting to the consumer. Want to buy a 55 inch, high def flat screen TV – options range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. The choice is up to the consumer, including opting not to purchase.

In the wacky world of healthcare, between insurance premiums and deductibles, the average (unsubsidized) cost of health insurance at the bronze level for a family is $20,604 before the first dollar of reimbursement.  (While an uncommon scenario, even the employer-sponsored health consumer has seen their average contributions to their health costs rise to $5,277 a year in 2016.)

This reality is creating market-based options that cover all of the consumers buying triggers – cost, access, convenience and quality.  Retail clinics are available 24 hours a day, conveniently located, and available for immediate scheduling. Beyond that, urgent care centers, telehealth programs, online consults, mobile apps, worksite clinics, and the innovations and alternatives to the local physician and the local hospital have not even really begun to get creative.  Then there’s artificial intelligence on the horizon that will usher in the area of personalized care bringing the world of health research and innovation to each individual patient encounter.

Meanwhile, in the world of EMRs, now that more than $30 billion in federal incentives to deploy electronic record systems has been spent, discussions are evolving around the question “is it time to replace your EMR?”  It is a question with investment implications ranging from a few hundred thousand dollars for a small practice to a billion+ in major health systems.  All the while further isolating their clients from the new world of healthcare evolving all around them.  The new reality of “healthcare everywhere” is the evolution of “defined health communities”.  The newly defined health community is unique to each individual health consumer.  It consists of choices the consumer makes to obtain health services – in their community, while traveling, at work, at home…whatever addresses their needs and preferences.

The fundamental question any buyer of an EMR system must be asking is – “what is your plan to connect me to the world of healthcare outside my enterprise and keep me relevant?

Photo: Mutlu Kurtbas, Getty Images

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