EHRs: What the Allscripts-Misys marriage means to you

Your choice of EHRs is slowly narrowing down as the number of vendors shrinks. That makes shopping easier.

Your choice of EHRs is slowly narrowing down as the number of vendors shrinks.That makes shopping easier.

The merger of Allscripts and Misys Healthcare, announced March 18, is one more sign of EHR industry consolidation as vendors acquire each other or fall by the wayside. Right now, there are almost 390 companies in this market, according to Mark Anderson, president of the AC Group, a healthcare IT firm in Montgomery, TX. “I see less than 50 in 2012,” says Anderson. “If you’renot a strong vendor, you won’t survive”

Allscripts and Misys got stronger by hooking up complementary “best of breed” products, says Syracuse healthcare IT consultant Rosemarie Nelson. Allscripts’ claim to fame is a stable of EHR and e-prescribing programs used by roughly 40,000 doctors and 700 hospitals. Misys also sells EHR programs, but its long suit consists of practice-management programs, including Misys Tiger, which is aimed at small medical practices. Misys claims that roughly 115,000 doctors use its practice-management systems, a number considered greatly inflated by some observers. Because only 20 percent have an EHR, this group represents an inviting market for Allscripts and its clinical software. The two companies have emphatically touted this cross-selling opportunity for the new company, which will go by the Allscripts name.

So what will happen to doctors who have a Misys EHR? Not to fear, says Glenn Tullman, the CEO of the current and future Allscripts. “We will continue to support any customer using any one of our products,” Tullman told stock analysts in a recent conference call. However, Mark Anderson predicts that the new Allscripts will have too many legacy products to support indefinitely-potentially bad news for Misys EHR customers.

From a technological standpoint, the merger is far from ideal. EHR and practice-management programs need to exchange patient data if a doctor’s office is to reap their full benefits. The best way for these programs to talk to each other is if they share a single database. This won’t be the case, at least initially, with a combination Allscripts EHR and a Misys practice-management system. Instead, they’ll have to connect through so-called interface software. Tullman says they work fine that way, pointing to the track record of more than 40 practice sites already using interfaced programs from Misys and Allscripts.

The merger of the two companies is just as complicated as the inside of a computer. Misys Healthcare is a subsidiary of Misys Plc, traded on the London stock exchange. Chicago-based Allscripts is traded on NASDAQ. Misys Plc is paying Allscripts $330 million to acquire a 54.5-percent ownership stake in the new company, which will be traded on NASDAQ as well. Besides having the dominant financial position, Misys Plc will control six seats on the 10-member board. The two companies expect to close the deal in four to six months.

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