Yesterday’s ONC HIT Policy Committee meeting was a big one. Over the course of many hours, the committee went from hearing revised recommendations for Meaningful Use, to recommendations from the HIE workgroup and lastly recommendations regarding certification processes for EHRs. Over the next week or so we plan to do separate write-ups on each of these topics and their implications.
ADDENDUM: HHS now has a webpage with links to various Meaningful Use documents and background pieces for you to drill down on.
But for today, one topic seems the most urgent and relevant to bring to the forefront (at least from our somewhat biased perspective) and that is…
What do the new meaningful use recommendations within the matrix (which was passed yesterday) mean to the PHR market?
Here is our quick sketch:
1) The topic of PHRs is embedded with the second priority of the meaningful use matrix, “Engage Patients & Families”. Putting engagement of patients and families number 2 out of 5 signals that this is indeed important to this administration. A very promising sign that tells the market that PHRs are, or at least will, become mainstream.
2) The revised matrix also accelerated the timetable for physician practices/hospitals to provide a patient with a PHR, populated in real-time with their personal health information (PHI) from 2015, to 2013. Again, another sign that consumer access to PHI is not only critical to meaningful use (and critical to showing value to citizens that their tax dollars are going to something they may directly benefit from), but also critical to improving health and indeed doable.
3) With such emphasis on PHRs in this crucial set of recommendations that will define future HIT architectures for many years to come, PHRs will now have a front row seat at the CIO’s table and no longer simply be an afterthought.
4) While many EHR/EMR vendors will certainly attempt to sell their existing PHR solution to their prospects (most of these solutions are no more than a simple consumer portal into the EMR), most hospitals and physician networks do not have simple, single EHR vendor environments, e.g. New York Presbyterian’s partnership with Microsoft is a good example. Thus, this creates an opportunity for independent PHR vendors with strong interoperability tools to step-up to the plate and serve this market opportunity.
5) This also creates an opportunity for independent PHR vendors to serve smaller specialty practices with solutions engineered to serve specific disease communities with a level of specificity not found in generic EMR/PHR solutions. For example, one can envision a PHR for oncology practices that embeds rich functionality (CDS) and content that pertains to a given cancer condition and may even link-out to social communities such as LiveStrong. As the market for PHRs expands and the population that can use them, naturally, the market also expands to address such niches in a profitable manner. This will be the next evolution in the PHR market, but we are still at least 2-3 years away from this moving from trial stage to early adopter stage.
Heartening to see such high level support and committment to PHRs from HHS. A market opportunity has been created and some PHR vendors are well-positioned to capitalize on it. These may be quickly acquired by EMR vendors. Others will successfully carve out a niche, but even here, they will need strong, or at least friendly partnerships with many a traditional HIT/EMR vendor.