Epic’s stronghold on the electronic health records (EHR) market is undeniable. With over 250 million patient records and a 32.9 percent hospital market share, it’s clear that this leading EHR system is having an impact on the healthcare industry. Additionally, its numbers continue to grow. In 2021, Epic was implemented in seventy-four hospitals, which was more than four times its nearest competitor, Oracle Cerner.
Read on as we dive into the effects of Epic’s market dominance on the healthcare records industry.
The Oligopoly Landscape of the EHR Market
Becker’s weighs in, talking about Epic’s market “command” to healthcare executives in November 2022, starting with a middle-ground quote that shares how this dominance isn’t positive or negative; “it just is.” Today’s EHR landscape, this CIO notes, is an oligopoly—with a status of limited competition—rather than a monopoly where there’s exclusive control of the market by Epic.
Closest to Epic is Oracle Cerner with 24.4 percent of the market share; while Epic is picking up large health systems, Cerner continues to add smaller ones. Meditech holds 16.7 percent of the market with other, smaller firms in the single-digit percentages.
Prior to 2011, hospitals used hundreds of applications to handle their IT needs. Then, when the United States government began stage one of its meaningful use objectives—which requires healthcare organizations’ compliance to qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments—complex EHR applications were developed to manage an umbrella of healthcare IT needs within one system. Costs increased to use these integrated “mega-suite” EHRs but were justified because of how they streamlined the healthcare organizations’ technology.
Does Epic’s Market Control Affect Competition, Prices, and Innovation?
One CIO who expresses concerns about Epic becoming a potential monopoly notes how, when any one company has greater market control, there is less competition. This can lead to higher prices as well as possible reductions in a focus on customer satisfaction and innovation. In response, Epic shared how pricing, for most of its products, has largely stayed the same for two decades. Plus, they add, Epic earmarks more than 30 percent of its budget to R&D, which the spokesperson believes is much higher than other EHR systems.
Here’s another viewpoint from a different executive: Scott Arnold, executive vice president and CIO of Tampa General Hospital. Healthcare organizations, he says, must partner with vendors that meet their specific needs; for their hospital, the answer is clearly Epic. This EHR system allowed them to lower costs and enhance patient experiences and outcomes.
Another benefit of Epic’s dominance is its increased interoperability. Plus, as other EHR companies are “chasing a market leader,” this can drive innovation in them, and Epic itself will need to continually improve because of advancements in artificial intelligence, sensor technologies, and so forth.
Epic Dominance and Healthcare IT Staffing
Common sense suggests that, in the days when healthcare systems used one of the hundreds of different types of technologies to manage their operations, IT professionals would have obtained a more surface level of multiple systems. Or, if they worked at the same organization for a lengthy time, they would gain in-depth knowledge of the systems used there, the knowledge that might not have transferred well to another organization. In other words, healthcare technologies were more siloed without the EHR interoperability that can significantly be attributed to Epic.
In the days since meaningful use standards were introduced, though, the number of technologies reduced to the degree that IT professionals could learn one in great depth. This increased knowledge, all by itself, allows for greater innovation in EHR optimizations as experts understand the possibilities for uniquely targeted usages.
With fewer EHR systems and the resulting increase in IT professionals that have a deep understanding of one or more of them, it may be easier to find experts that specialize in a healthcare organization’s platform of choice. They can dedicate themselves to staying completely up to date with the latest technological advancements and how they affect the EHR being used.
Healthcare IT Staffing Challenges
Although healthcare IT professionals have more niche EHR specialties than twenty years ago because of the strong concentration in the top systems (with the top three EHR systems having about a 74 percent market share), there’s a problem. There’s a shortage of healthcare IT talent overall. Some of this has been attributed to the impact of the pandemic and the subsequent Great Resignation, but many experts believe that this is a long-term issue because of the changing demographics in the United States.
Population growth is the lowest in our history, and millions of Baby Boomers have retired or are retiring. This is the first generation that worked in computer technology, so this is a significant shift.
So, when a healthcare organization is planning an Epic implementation, it isn’t unusual that they need to reach out to consultants to fill in their staffing and skill set gaps.
Benefits of Epic Consultants
Over the past two decades, the landscape of healthcare IT has changed dramatically. Reasons include the meaningful use standards, the increasing presence of a handful of EHR systems, and the healthcare IT staffing shortages further fueled by the pandemic, the Great Resignation, and the country’s changing demographics.
Using expert Epic consultants can allow your healthcare organization to successfully navigate these challenges, strategically supplementing your in-house IT team. At HealthTECH Resources, professionals are available as consultants, contract-to-hire professionals, and permanent placements with a wide range of niche specialties: project management, Epic implementation, optimization, and integration, data migration, training, go-live and post-live support, and more.
Each need for staff augmentation is unique, and our experienced leadership can help your healthcare organization analyze your in-house specialties and bandwidths to determine your specific requirements. Our boutique-style agency has just one niche—the healthcare IT/EMR/EHR space—and we maintain a deep and wide network of Epic consultants to rapidly fulfill your requests.
Contact HealthTECH Resources for Your Epic Consultants
Augment your in-house team with just the right professionals for your EHR implementation to position yourself to truly offer world-class health care. To get started, please contact us online or call (602) 903-7961.
PRESIDENT/CEO AT HEALTHTECH RESOURCES
Larry has specialized in building strategic healthcare relationships for over 25 years, helping the nation’s top payors and providers solve some of their most pressing business challenges through an intelligent mix of staffing services, training, and consulting.