Epic has the youngest physician user base: What does this mean for the future of EHR vendors? 10 takeaways

Looking at the demographics of a vendor's client base can provide insight into the EHR market share, potentially even hinting at which vendors are positioned for continued growth.

A new research report from Wells Fargo Securities combines data on physician EHR users and their demographics to estimate the average age of the client base for10 of the largest EHR vendors.

Here are 10 things to know about the analysis.

1. The average age of physicians using an EHR is estimated to be 48.8 years old.

2. The majority of vendors' clients are estimated to fall right around this age, from GE Healthcare (48.1 years old) to eClinicalWorks (49.3 years old).

3. In between those vendors are Cerner, NextGen Healthcare, athenahealth, Allscripts and Greenway Health, all with users around an average age of 48.7. McKesson users share a slightly higher-than-average age of 50.4 years.

4. What stands out are the two vendors on either end of the spectrum, whose average physician age is estimated as lower or higher than their competitors. Epic's average physician age is 47.7 years old, the youngest average among vendors. Practice Fusion's is the highest, at 51.7 years old.

5. These results are contrary to what the analysts expected. "We thought this analysis might indicate more web-based software like [athenahealth] among younger physicians, but no," they wrote. (athenahealth's average user age is 48.9 years old, right in line with the overall average age.)

6. Epic's relatively young user age suggests the vendor is solidifying its leading position in the EHR market for years to come. After all, the analysis shows Epic has held more than 25 percent of the market share among physicians who graduated from medical school in the past 15 years.

7. This growth in market share could be tied to the growing numbers of physicians seeking employment in larger groups at the beginning of their careers, according to Wells Fargo analysts. The report states "those larger groups have disproportionately implemented Epic (and continue to do so)."

8. The vendor with the second highest market share over the past 15 years is Allscripts, whose market share hovered right around 10 percent but has been declining since 2005.

9. As for Practice Fusion's higher-than-average age cohort, the analysts suggest older physicians are drawn to this vendor because it is free, and these physicians may not be as interested in investing in software as they approach the end of their careers.

10. "This analysis shows that winning deals with large practices (or keeping them in your client base) will be even more vital for [athenahealth, Allscripts and Quality Systems] to be major players over time," the analysts conclude, citing the notion that "demography is destiny."

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