TELUS Health announced today its offer to acquire the electronic medical record business (PS Suite EMR) operated by MD Practice Software LP, a member of the MD Physician Services Group and a subsidiary of the Canadian Medical Association. Closing of the transaction is scheduled for Monday March 4, 2013. (Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed)
TELUS has invested over $1 billion in healthcare over the past five years in multiple sectors including claims transaction processing through the acquisition of Emergis, pharmacy systems and now EMRs. Over the past year, TELUS has acquired Wolf Medical Systems in Western Canada and KinLogix in Quebec. According to data provided by TELUS, as a result of the acquisition of PS Suite, TELUS Health will provide EMR solutions to 9,000 physicians across Canada. With provincially certified solutions in the four largest provinces, this will provide TELUS with a strong footprint in Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario. EMR market consolidation has accelerated over the past three years led initially by QHR Technologies and more recently by TELUS Health. See October 2012 CanadianEMR Article 'Consolidation in the Canadian EMR Market'
What does this mean for the EMR market in Canada and for practices that currently use the TELUS Health EMR products?
I had an opportunity to discuss the acquisition with Dr. Brendan Byrne, VP Physician Solutions for TELUS Physician Solutions. The following is a summary of that conversation.
AB: "With the acquisition of PS Suite EMR, I see one of the challenges being how you will maintain three different EMR products, although they are in three different markets. Do you plan to transition users to one primary EMR system?"
BB: "No, we will be supporting users in each of the markets served by the three products. Our focus is to maintain and focus upon physician relationships. TELUS Physician Solutions has been structured as a single business unit with three products. We have 300 employees across the business unit and over the next 3-5 years we plan to support each of the systems as we analyze the strengths of each platform. Our objective is to develop a next generation world-class solution over that time as the next evolution of our EMR strategy."
AB: "What are your plans in terms of getting all of the product teams working together?"
BB: "We see this in four phases. Phase 1 will be a period of stabilization including taking over the operations of PS Suite. Phase 2 will be focused on discovery in terms of product decision making. During phase 3, we will begin to introduce new collaboration services, such as building connections between EMRs and pharmacy systems and phase 4 is our national platform development. Many parts of these phases will run concurrently."
AB: "You have some unique challenges, for example in Ontario PS Suite is offered both as an ASP and as a local server version of the product. Will you continue to support both versions? In Alberta, with Wolf Medical and PS Suite both being offered as provincially certified EMRs (2 of the 3 certified solutions), how do you plan to manage the products in the same province?"
BB: "In Ontario, approximately 13% of physicians use the ASP (Cloud) based version of PS Suite. The majority of physicians continue to use the Local Server version of the product. We will continue to support both versions. Similarly, in Alberta we will continue to support both PS Suite and Wolf Medical."
AB: "What insights can you provide about the market? As the dominant provider in Canada in terms of market share once the acquisition is complete, what do you see as the next area of focus for EMRs?"
BB: "Up to this point, I believe we have spent too much time focused on regional issues. We need to move beyond regional performance and focus more on patient outcomes rather than EMR products."
AB: "If one looks at the user demographics for the three EMR products within your business unit, your customers are dominantly primary care physicians. Will primary care continue to be your main focus?"
BB: "We see that the next phase of growth in the EMR market in Canada is going to be through the specialties. We are already investing in and building capabilities to support the sub-specialties such as pediatrics and psychiatry. This will be a key strategy for us."
AB: "How do you define success as the TELUS EMR vision evolves?"
BB: "Success will be having more doctors using more of the functionality than what they have today. Too many doctors are not fully realizing the benefits of their EMRs."
With the acquisition of PS Suite from the Canadian Medical Association, two important dynamics will be unleashed. Canada's EMR market is beginning to mature and what we see is the emergence of a small number of dominant EMR vendors. At the same time, with the sale of the EMR business division, the Canadian Medical Association will be free to return to its role as a powerful independent advocate on behalf of Canadian physicians. Both, in my opinion, represent a movement in the right direction for Canadians.
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