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In a Shifting Vendor Landscape, Why the HCI 100 Matters More Than Ever

March 27, 2013
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Want to know what’s really going on these days in the healthcare IT vendor sphere? The Healthcare Informatics 100 will once again be a uniquely important touchstone for our industry

It’s always amusing to me how the received wisdom so often ends up being just plain wrong. One easy example: about five years ago, there was a meme floating around the industry that that said that the HIMSS Conference had become irrelevant—too big, too amorphous, and not eventful enough. And then a bunch of things happened, including meaningful use, the federal healthcare reform law, the ICD-10 transition mandate, health information exchange, and other important phenomena. And thus it became obvious that the need for large numbers of people to get together in person to share perspectives and experiences, learn the latest, and meet with federal officials in person, was as important as ever.

Similarly, there’s a meme out there right now that says that the healthcare IT vendor industry is consolidating down to just a few big vendors (insert your favorite names here) that will dominate and control everything, and will crush all the other vendors out there. Actually, that meme has been active for a number of years now; but I’m not convinced. Granted, in the core electronic health record (EHR) space, consolidation is proceeding apace, and, doubtless, a small number of core-EHR vendors are doing exceptionally well. But the reality is that healthcare information technology is incredibly complex on a number of levels—not only technologically, but also as a business.

Evidence of that complexity is everywhere: look at what’s happening right now, as the trend of health insurers providing analytics tools continues apace. United Health Group’s 2010 acquisition of Axolotl, and its rebranding of that firm as Optum Insight (after it had already stirred controversy through some of the dealings of its subsidiary, Ingenix), and Aetna’s acquisition of Medicity, that same year, were clearly signals that insurers needed, and were willing to spend money to get, the analytics solutions they needed to succeed in a changing healthcare landscape.

And all the activity taking place in the health information exchange (HIE) space also speaks to shifting perspectives and strategies—just take the Alere acquisition of Wellogic and the rebranding of Wellogic as Alere Accountable Care Solutions, for example.

Indeed, meeting at HIMSS13 in New Orleans with Bruce Henderson of Accountable Care Solutions from Aetna and Tricia Nguyen, M.D., chief medical officer of the Phoenix-based Banner Health Network, reminded me again last month how quickly the healthcare IT vendor landscape is evolving right now, with Aetna building its own suite of solutions to support its provider partners—thus becoming a vendor as well as a health plan.

No doubt, some of these shifts can be confusing. What, a health plan is now also a vendor? And what was once primarily a medical device-related vendor has acquired an HIE solutions provider to reposition itself for accountable care? One really does need a scorecard to keep track of all the changes.

That’s why the Healthcare Informatics 100 will once again be a uniquely important touchstone for the industry this year. As the industry evolves forward rapidly, HCI’s unique compendium of healthcare IT vendors will help everyone sort out what’s going on right now in this sector of the industry. What’s more, our June cover story package will, as in past years, include our Most Interesting Vendors profiles; shorter capsule profiles on Up and Comers (smaller, emerging vendors worth watching); and our annual mergers and acquisitions analysis from the esteemed analyst and researcher Ben Rooks.

This is our publication’s highly anticipated look at where the vendor industry is every year. For those reading this who are at vendor companies, please make sure to fill out and submit your company’s revenues here.

 And for our readers, we very much look forward to providing you our June cover story package—along with all the other robust content in that issue—very soon. At this time of great ferment in the healthcare IT field, there’s never been a more critical time during which to keep a close eye on healthcare IT vendors—or a time when it’s more important to ignore the received wisdom and find out for yourself what’s really going on in healthcare IT.