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Breaking the Mold

May 26, 2011
by David Raths
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CIOs Eager to See Proof of Allscripts-Eclipsys Pudding
Glen Tullman
Glen Tullman

Of all the companies on the HCI 100 list, perhaps none garners more interest in the industry than Chicago-based Allscripts Healthcare Solutions Inc. That perception was borne out by the large crowds at its booth at the February HIMSS trade show in Orlando.

After pulling off a merger with Misys Healthcare the year before, publicly traded Allscripts doubled down last year by announcing a merger with Atlanta-based Eclipsys Corp. That deal was seen as a game-changer because it brought together EHR vendors with complementary strengths in ambulatory and hospital settings. The combined company has more than 5,500 employees and a combined revenue of approximately $1.2 billion. Through the mergers and organic growth, Allscripts' client base has grown to 180,000 physicians, 1,500 hospitals and 10,000 post-acute care organizations, which the company calls “the largest connected network in healthcare.”

The jury is still out, however, on whether the Eclipsys merger will yield positive results for customers.

Mark Wagner
Mark Wagner

But Allscripts is definitely breaking the mold with this purchase of an inpatient vendor, says Mark Wagner, director of ambulatory research at Orem, Utah-based KLAS. “That is high profile, it impacts a lot of people and it has great ramifications,” he adds. For one thing, it is forcing other vendors to look at similar mergers or partnerships. And Allscripts remains “top of mind” for physician practices considering new systems. A 2011 KLAS survey on ambulatory EMR perceptions found that Allscripts was the most popular vendor. “We have talked to people live with the meaningful use version, 11.2,” Wagner says, “and they are very positive about it.”

But the real focus in 2011 will be on seamless data flow between ambulatory EHRs and the Sunrise inpatient system. “They have the vision, they have demonstrated it,” Wagner says, “now they have to prove it at live sites.”

Allscripts CEO Glen Tullman is glad for all the attention the company is receiving and is confident the vision of stitching together ambulatory and inpatient EHRs will pay off. “I think we are meeting clients where they are now,” he says. “They are realizing it is not enough to be a standalone physician practice or a standalone hospital. As the accountable care movement begins, they know they have to be connected and we have the tools and vision to make that happen.” Indeed, Allscripts has trademarked the phrase “Connected Community of Health” to highlight the tools it provides to coordinate care across settings.

KLAS' Wagner notes that Allscripts will be a serious consideration for CIOs looking at what ACOs will require of them in community settings ranging from the physician offices to hospitals to post-acute settings and patients' homes.

Tullman also stresses that Eclipsys' strength in analytical tools is becoming increasingly important to CIOs. “Before the merger, Eclipsys was called ‘the outcomes company’ and that is the right focus,” he says. It's important not just to use the technology, but also to start leveraging it for better outcomes. You have to use insights on what comes out of those connections in a way to practice medicine better.”

Most hospital CIOs who were longtime Eclipsys customers applauded the merger when it was announced. In a recent interview, Rick Schooler, vice president and CIO of the seven-hospital Orlando Health network in Florida, called it “absolutely necessary” for the companies involved and for the industry. “From any standpoint you want to look at it-financial stability or technological innovation-[Allscripts and Eclipsys] are much better together than apart.”

Rick Schooler
Rick Schooler

For the industry's sake, he adds, it is important that there are many strong competitors and not just Epic and Cerner picking up the lion's share of new installations. “Siemens, McKesson, and Allscripts all have to do a better job so that customers will have an array of choices of products that work well,” Schooler adds.

Orlando Health has employed physicians using Allscripts Sunrise as well as Allscripts Enterprise for practice management and EHR. As it acquires physician practices, it will migrate them to these platforms so it will have fewer system types to support.

Now Schooler is eager to see the results of the merger in the software itself. “I think they need to get busy about product integration,” he says. “So far there has been more focus on marketing integration. They have the meaningful use-compliant code; now we need to get it in place by July 1.”

Tullman notes that the company actually delayed the integration work on product development so as not to distract both sides' meaningful use work. “Once they both got ARRA-certified, we began work on integration. We demonstrated that at HIMSS and the move to deploy that integration at live sites is under way now, he said.

One word observers use to describe what Allscripts is doing is “disruptive.” Tullman takes that as a compliment.

“I think we are driving a positive disruption that our customers will appreciate, though some of our competitors may not,” he says. “We are being aggressive with innovations such as partnering with Intuit on patient portals and developing iPad and mobility solutions.” He believes Allscripts will continue to be a force in reshaping the health IT industry. “We are seeing a restructuring where people realize they can't be stand-alone systems,” he adds. “They have to offer a full range of services.”

Healthcare Informatics 2011 June;28(6):50-51

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