Sluggish electronic medical record sales growth in 2010 was caused by uncertainty over federal guidelines, according to a new report.
Healthcare market research firm Kalorama Information predicted 15 percent growth rate for EMR system sales in both 2009 and 2010, but the market achieved only 10 and 13.6 percent, respectively.
The slower than expected pace resulted from hesitation on the part of physicians still confused about federal "meaningful use" guidelines, which must be met in order for doctors, medical practices and hospitals to receive incentive payments from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid that are meant to stimulate EMR adoption, according to the report.
The U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services issued the so-called “meaningful use” rules for EMR systems in July. National Health IT coordinator Dr. David Blumenthal and principal deputy administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Marilyn Tavenner wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine that the core objectives for the rules are the “basic functions that enable EHRs to support improved healthcare.”
The Kalorama report, "EMR 2011: The Market for Electronic Medical Record Systems," valued the EMR market at $15.7 billion for 2010 and predicted that it should see significantly more robust performances in the next few years.
Currently, almost 50 percent of doctors use EMRs, according to the report, but Kalorama is predicting predicts faster adoption in coming years. The firm predicted 18 to 20 perent growth for the EMR market for the next two years.
Doctors will be encouraged to start using EMRs as more hospitals install the systems, but the important factor is the threat of reduced incentive payments in 2015, according to the report.
"The stick is stronger than the carrot when it comes to the… incentive-penalty equation. We continue to believe that and we think it’s the industry’s consensus as well. While the policy already picked up those oriented towards technology, the penalties will force conversion and upgrading in the future. And those decisions will happen in the next two years, before the penalties kick in," Kalorama publisher Bruce Carlson said in prepared remarks.