While it was also the year of Ebola hazmat suits and preventive care, 2014 was also the year of many healthcare IT developments. From the push toward greater interoperability to the adoption of business intelligence tools for predictive analytics, tech was at the forefront of the industry. Going forward, here are four IT vendors you should be keeping your eye on this year, for better or worse:
Topping our list, this health IT provider out of Missouri gained a lot of momentum in 2014 as a growing number of physician practices and hospitals adopted its EHR systems and ancillary technologies. In 2014, Cerner Corp. acquired Siemens AG's EHR unit for $1.3 billion, and according to reported tallies, Cerner-Siemens has "the biggest US market share of any EHR vendor," with 1,132 acute care hospitals. While Epic is still an epic force to be reckoned with, it will be interesting to watch how a more powerful Cerner will fare this year. Also, just as hospital CIOs are increasing their focus on predictive analytics, Cerner is making more inroads into the population health market. Its recently launched HealtheIntent is a multi-purpose, cloud-based programmable platform that allows healthcare systems to aggregate, transform and reconcile data across the continuum of care.
On the heels of Healthcare.gov's catastrophic initial launch, CMS hired this global vendor pick up the pieces—and piece together the signature website of the Affordable Care Act. After successfully deploying an army of experts—more than 500 people in six weeks!— to fix the site, the consulting and technology firm landed in the Obama administration's good graces. And by year's end, it landed a multi-year, $563-million contract to continue its work on Healthcare.gov. (On a separate note, the original Healthcare.gov contractor CGI Group, Inc., has recovered somewhat). The story is all the more remarkable considering it wasn't even two years ago that Accenture came under fire for ethical lapses. Today, a functional ACA insurance exchange is being largely credited with the program's success—so it will be quite interesting to see if this big victory could spiral into more opportunities in the private healthcare space.
From medical billing to EHRs and business intelligence and even medical apps for physicians, Watertown, MA-based athenahealth is dipping its toes into all kinds of healthcare markets. As a growing number of large medical groups and small practices are shopping for cloud-based EHR and billing services because the cost and burden of on-premises technology is too much to bear, athenahealth’s suite technology services is an attractive option. And just this week, athenahealth announced it will acquire RazorInsights, a provider of cloud-based EHR and financial solutions for rural, critical access and community hospitals. The goal: to extend its presence into the 50-bed-and-under inpatient care environment, which reportedly accounts for approximately one-third of the US hospital market. However, financial analysts have offered a cautious 2015 outlook in the wake of the company being slammed by a prominent hedge-fund manager earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal reported: The company expects 2015 sales of $900 million to $925 million and earnings of $1.20 to $1.30 a share. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had called for revenue of $924 million and per-share earnings of $1.25.
#4. Whoever wins the DoD contract
Competition among EHR vendors is cutthroat, and, as we're seeing, not everyone will survive in the game of who can acquire the most hospital contracts. Partnerships are forming (like the recent announcement that Google is part of the PwC group), acquisitions are happening, and some of the biggest opportunities are getting snatched up as you read this. That's why the DoD contract that every major healthcare vendor is vying for—Epic/IBM, Cerner, Accenture, Allscripts, MedSphere, etc.—which is worth $11 billion over 11 years, would be a major win and ensure market sustainability. It would also set a big precedent, as hospital CIOs like winners—and the fickle EHR space is enough to turn anyone's stomach.