Digital Shift Swells Profits for Electronic Medical Record Industry

February 25, 2013

Nearly three years after the 2009 economic stimulus bill signed by President Obama promoted the use of electronic medical records, the records industry is reaping enormous profits from increased sales under the legislation. The increased sales are the direct result of lobbying, says the New York Times.

  • Chicago-based Allscripts Healthcare Solutions, one of the firms that lobbied heavily for government support for digital medical records, witnessed its annual sales more than double from $548 million in 2009 to $1.44 billion in 2012.
  • The records industry made hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions to both Democrats and Republicans and a deeper investigation shows that Allscripts' former CEO was a health care adviser to the Obama administration.
  • The former CEO, Glen Tullman, made $225,000 in strategic contributions to mostly Democrats, while Cerner, another company whose profits rose 60 percent between 2009 and 2012, donated nearly $400,000 to mostly Republicans.

Current and former industry executives agree that the largest digital records companies like Allscripts, Cerner and Epic Systems have generated enormous profits and Wall Street-style executive pay because of the legislation they supported financially.

  • While annual growth has been explosive for the leading records firms, smaller firms, like cloud-based Athenahealth, have been squeezed out of the market.
  • Proponents of the digital systems say that they ease medication prescription.
  • Opponents of the digital systems complain that data cannot be shared between different information systems and that physicians spend additional time documenting patient care digitally.

Source: Julie Creswell, "A Digital Shift on Health Data Swells Profits in an Industry," New York Times, February 19, 2013.

 

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