Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

Electronic health records (EHRs) were on everyone’s mind at the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference recently, a buzzing show that drew a record-breaking crowd of 31,225.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius set the tone for the show in her keynote, in which she gave an update on the state of EHR adoption from her perspective as the national coordinator for health IT within the Obama administration.

"Over the last few decades, we’ve seen information technology transform industry after industry," Sebelius said. "Today, we are poised for a similar revolution in health care."

She noted that the industry is just getting off the ground with its efforts to deploy and derive meaningful use from EHRs, but that over the last few years the scale of EHR adoption has seen the needle tip over by 10 points in the last year–from 20 percent to 30 percent adoption among primary care providers.

"And when doctors and hospitals were recently asked whether they planned to apply for new incentive payments that will require them to be meaningful users of electronic health records by 2015, more than four out of five hospitals and more than two out of five office-based physicians said yes," she said. "If those numbers hold, this would be the fastest growth in health information technology that we’ve ever seen in this country – or in any other."

This kind of rapid adoption could spell opportunity for channel partners with a good knowledge of the healthcare market. According to the analysts at IDC Health in a report published earlier this year, the EHR market equaled $2 billion in 2009 and is expected to grow to $3.8 billion by 2015.

One of the big factors in this growth has been the incentive payment program laid out by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 and the requirements by the law for organizations to show ‘meaningful use’ of EHRs rather than simply installing shelf-ware for the sake of a government handout.

This means many healthcare organizations are seeking professional services and clinical transformation services that can help them deploy technologies such as health information exchanges, electronic prescribing, computerized physician order entry and analytics for business, clinical and operational intelligence, IDC said.

Time is of the essence for healthcare providers to take advantage of the ARRA subsidies, giving those within the channel salesforce a heightened sense of urgency to leverage. The government bonuses are titrated downward the longer it takes for healthcare organizations to demonstrate meaningful use.

The IDC report warned: ""Organizations that implement and demonstrate meaningful use later will receive lower incentive payments than those that implement early."