eClinicalWorks plans to compete for hospital EHR business

(Story updated at 12:10 p.m. ET)

Another developer of Web-based electronic health record and practice management systems originally designed for physicians is pushing ahead with plans for a hospital EHR.

eClinicalWorks, Westborough, Mass., is teaming up with Tidelands Health, a two-hospital integrated delivery system based in Georgetown, S.C., and other unnamed “strategic partners” to develop a product for launch into the acute-care EHR market.

“The changing landscape makes it even more imperative to have solutions that give a complete, unified view of a patient that is accessible anytime, anywhere,” eClinicalWorks CEO Girish Navani said in a news release.

The new system, to be called eClinicalWorks 10i, is to work in inpatient, outpatient and allied health settings, the company said.

The initial release of the system, planned for 2017, should include inventory and bed management and “support for emergency and operating rooms, analytics, computerized physician order entry (CPOE),” the release said.

Tidelands, a not-for-profit organization, operates Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital and Tidelands Waccamaw Rehabilitation Hospital, both in Murrells Inlet, and Tidelands Georgetown Memorial Hospital, as well as more than 40 outpatient-care sites.

A year ago, rival developer Athenahealth announced it had acquired the intellectual property behind webOMR, the Web-based clinical system developed in-house by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, and used by the 649-bed hospital as well as in more than 30 outpatient-care sites.

A month before, Athenahealth had purchased RazorInsights, Kennesaw, Ga., a developer of Web-based, inpatient EHRs marketed for small and critical-access hospitals.

Perhaps the biggest question about the eClinicalWorks move into acute care is: Is the company coming too late to the inpatient cloud party?”

Athenahealth already has a jump on two small hospitals, former RazorInsights clients, using software developed post-merger, according to spokeswoman Holly Spring. Athenahealth will focus on converting the other 20 or so small hospitals using RazorInsights to the new technology in the first half of this year, Spring said.

New customers will go live on this new solution as well, she said.

Meanwhile, Beth Israel's Needham campus and the University of Toledo Medical Center are working as development sites for Athenahealth technology, incorporating the intellectual property from WebOMR.

“They will also be early adopters as we move into larger hospitals,” Spring said. “The plan is to test solutions with both of them later in 2016.”

Meanwhile, the cash flow from the federal EHR incentive payment program for hospitals is drying up. The December report from the CMS on federal outflows under the program shows the government paid hospitals just $68 million to buy, install and meaningfully use an EHR in 2015, compared with $3.9 billion in 2014 and $6.3 billion in 2013.

But that's a harbinger, not a deterrent, according to Sameer Bhat, eClinicalWorks vice president and co-founder of the 16-year-old company.

“As the money is going away from the incentives coming from CMS, hospitals are asking some tough questions,” Bhat said. “ 'How are we utilizing our total cost of ownership over the next five years to remain competitive?' They have to look at their total IT spend. From a CIO's perspective, running a hospital IT system has become a nightmare. We see an opportunity for a player to offer a cost-centric, cloud solution.”

Every other industry has cut costs and gained efficiency by moving IT systems to the cloud, Bhat said. “In the next five to 10 years, healthcare will certainly recognize the value of the cloud.”

Bhat said his company will name other hospital development partners in a few weeks.

One thing the privately held company won't do is buy an existing EHR company to speed up entrance into the hospital EHR market, Bhat said.

Over the last 16 years, “We've never acquired a company,” Bhat said. “We're in a marathon here. We don't have quarterly targets. We can define our destiny. When you end up buying these different systems they come with baggage. We've seen that in the industry over time. They end up building interfaces and you can't really provide a seamless end-user experience. It has to be one unified platform.”

Joseph Conn

Joseph Conn reports on information technology, privacy and data security. He has been a reporter and editor for 35 years for various news publications and taught journalism at Valparaiso (Ind.) University, where he earned his bachelor's degree in English. He also worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Sierra Leone. Conn joined Modern Physician in 2000, serving as reporter, editor and online editor. He joined Modern Healthcare in 2005.

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