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ShiftCentral / Can healthcare data companies survive instability?

Can healthcare data companies survive instability?

As healthcare models continue to move toward a patient-centered, value-based approach, it’s vital that healthcare providers are not only equipped to collect patient data, but that they can quickly and securely move it from point A to point B. This is where a wave of healthcare IT vendors, ranging from global Electronic Health Record (EHR) giants to startups, are stepping in to bridge the gap and to help get data moving in the right direction.

Whether it’s storing, moving or leveraging patient data, these tasks require massive investment, and healthcare IT vendors are attuned to this. Beyond moving data to the cloud, vendors are offering solutions that help providers leverage this data, allowing them to unlock increased efficiencies, improve care, provide cost transparency and enhance the overall patient experience. Inherently, most of these vendor solutions are based on, and built upon, the data they sell. 

Regardless of this rising demand for health data support, this segment of the healthcare IT market’s future is being called into question. Writing in Harvard Busines Review (HBR), three managing directors from L.E.K. Consulting predict data-driven healthcare IT startups won’t survive unless they change their business model and stop selling data. The consultants point to a surge in health data availability, driven by adoption of EHRs and digitization, which has now reached a point where this data is considered a commodity. An example of this is the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services publishing Medicare enrollment and utilization data on a dashboard for all to see.  The consultants don’t see a bright future for larger health IT players in the market either. They’re predicting domination from large EHR vendors, such as Epic and Cerner, is coming to an end. 

Still, this idea hasn’t deterred government or major health systems from moving forward with – and investing heavily in – switching over their EHR systems to major global players. For example, NYC Health + Hospitals is in the midst of a $764-million Epic implementation, while the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs is working with Cerner on  a $4-billion contract to digitize its own records. Even smaller providers – who don’t have the cash on hand to invest in patient data – are getting access to these platforms by creating a shared platform in collaboration with their larger counterparts. 

Over the past few years, smaller vendors and startups have become better at leveraging health data. They’re consolidating and doing their best to join the ranks of larger companies that pull data into a single platform. But the health data market is in flux. Vendors and health providers are dealing with myriad of regulatory and privacy issues. Investors are pouring millions of dollars into growing healthcare startups as Congress overhauls a federal law that could alter access to health insurance. Health providers need to leverage data, but they’re integrating (and collaborating) with clinics and other systems, and partnering with health insurers, pointing to a need for solutions that are interoperable. These vendors will likely attract more investors, grow their share of the market, and can likely survive, but they’ll need to revisit their business models and help the healthcare market move toward that highly coveted state of interoperability in order to do so.