Although market conditions could be friendlier-more funding, more provider buy-in, more integration with the larger IT world-none of this has stopped a variety of focused, privately held vendors from offering behavioral healthcare customers a wide array of electronic tools.
Just who are these companies and their products focusing on? This year's survey discloses that the top five target markets are, in order:
- community-based behavioral healthcare providers
- residential-based behavioral healthcare providers
- city/county/behavioral health/social service agencies
- child/family service providers; and
- substance use/addiction treatment programs.
For a complete listing of behavioral health segments targeted by the 56 companies surveyed, along with a listing of their key products, see the chart on pages 16-17.
Given the prominence of electronic medical and health records (EMRs/EHRs) in healthcare IT circles, it's no surprise that most products offer some tie to creating, managing, or storing them. Beyond these records, whose boundaries are often blurred (see sidebar: EHR, It Is), the breadth of capabilities offered in these IT products reflects the diversity in size, resources, and services of behavioral health providers. Some offer a comprehensive, enterprise solution that spans many capabilities, while others are highly specialized. In addition to EMRs, the range of IT product capabilities includes:
- HHS, grant, and case management
- Facility, clinic, and practice management
- Disease and addiction management
- Claims and payor management
- Workflow management
- Research, analysis, reporting, and compliance
- Documentation, imaging, forms creation, and management
To assist ourselves, and you, in breaking down the survey, we asked the vendors for responses in six overall categories, which included:
- Company demographics (Name, year founded, employees, website)
- Core product and target market/typical applications
- Customer locations (number of states in US, number of provinces in Canada, number of countries internationally)
- Product/System Architecture: Client/Server, Desktop, and ASP/SaaS
- Operating System compatibility (Note that in the Open Source category, the survey did not delineate between OS such as Linux, and the more specialized VistA.)
Product features and functionalities
To better illustrate the range of product features and functionalities, our survey broke them out according to the taxonomy used in a study of the top healthcare technology adoption/investment priorities conducted by our sister organization, Healthcare Informatics Research. The HCI taxonomy breaks healthcare IT investments into these broad categories:
- Clinical EHR and EHR-related
- Clinical care: Other than EHR
- Administrative and Financial
- Hardware and Infrastructure
Within these categories, respondents were asked to report whether their product offered features in each of 23 sub-categories. These are presented in the comprehensive chart that follows.
But here's where things get a little more complicated, based on the context of the vendor, their product, and their own self-reported answers. You'll find that not all boxes in the same category mean the same thing. One example: Virtually all respondents reported that their product offered Clinical Data Repository (CDR) and EHR capabilities. But closer inspection may reveal that one respondent offers enterprise-level capabilities, while other offerings operate from desktop PCs. A similar diversity exists in the EHR column, with numerous packages supporting comprehensive EHR capabilities and others offering a more limited set of EMR-related features: forms creation and conversion, scanning and image management, or database creation and management.
Now that we've done our best to gather, sort, and present this survey, it's your turn. With your comments, the arrival of long-awaited certification standards for EHR systems, and the continued evolution of other healthcare IT technologies, we're sure that we can expand the accuracy, detail, and precision of future surveys.
For details about target markets, definitions of the categories used in our taxonomy of product features and functionalities, and other details of our IT Vendor Survey, visit http://www.behavioral.net/ITsurvey-revised.
Open Source Options
Price points lower the bar for healthcare organizations with few investment dollars. Although open source software systems are typically available as free downloads, most organizations require a technically skilled support staff to implement, integrate, and maintain them.
The result of collaborative design and development, open source-based software is freely available without standard licensing or other fees. While a number of these applications have gained respectability among mainstream business owners, the healthcare industry, on the whole, has been slow to adopt them.