TECHNOLOGY: Spending and adoption in the clinical IT market — Is the S curve getting up off the floor?

You know that all technology diffuses in an "S" curve, and the trick is figuring out when the line goes up from snaking along the floor and starts heading up sharply–the "hockey stick" growth phase. Whisper it quietly but in terms of health care clinical IT, we may be about to enter that state.  The Dallas Business Journal reports that interest in IT spending is on the rise amongst health care CEOs. Meanwhile, on the eRX front there are a couple of interesting developments with industry giant Mckesson getting together with Surescripts to help round out the pharmacy systems integrated into Surescripts’ ePrescribing network.  In a similar vein, small but feisty handheld vendor PatientKeeper won another contract which "gives physicians real-time access to patient lists, consultation lists, the previous three days of laboratory data (with built-in alerts for labwork of critical value or results out of normal range), and dictated radiology data." PatientKeeper is also trying to move physicians to enter and update charge-capture information, which in turn should increase their revenue. In addition to this news, quite the good day was had by Cerner, which despite going 0 for 4 in its quest to win any regional UK contracts, upped profit expectations based on increased business in the US (including its recent contract with large Catholic chain Ascension Health) and was rewarded with a 15% rise in stock price yesterday.

On the plane last night I met a senior sales exec from Allscripts.  We swapped eHealth war stories, and he told me essentially how grim life had been in the trenches trying to get some sales going in the late 90’s and early Zero’s.  Allscripts was really the only eRx vendor that was left standing and that was partly because it IPOed a little sooner than iScribe, ePhysician, Parkstone et al which never got out and all died. But in the last 18 months, things had turned around and every significant medical group he was talking to had decided to do something in the clinical/physician IT space. Allscripts after some tough times is now up to 10,000 docs at around 150 sites, and maybe one of the companies poised to actually benefit from the "S" curve take-off.

Are we really entering the two to four year hockey-stick growth phase for clinical and physician IT use?  I don’t know, but to quote Ian Morrison, "if something’s going to be a big deal it’s got to start sometime."

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