Promoting healthy competition in health IT markets

Share This Page

The FTC has been a consistent proponent of competition in health care markets, utilizing our full range of study, advocacy, and enforcement tools. We are equally proud of our track record in promoting innovation and responding to new technological developments throughout our 100-year history. The FTC is well-positioned to monitor competition in today’s burgeoning health information technology (IT) marketplace – relying on our combined expertise in health care, technology, and health-related privacy and data security issues.

At the FTC’s March 2014 Examining Health Care Competition workshop, one panel focused on advances in health care technology, including electronic health records, health data exchanges, and new hardware and software platforms used by health care providers and payers. As panelists explored the competitive landscape, they discussed the goals of interoperability, the potential for health IT to facilitate greater efficiency and coordination of care, and the need to promote continued innovation. They also warned of potential threats to competition from high switching costs, data lock-in, misguided standard-setting activities, and other features of health IT systems and platforms.

Our technology panel benefitted greatly from the participation of two senior officials from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), the federal agency charged with oversight and coordination in this important area. Since the workshop, FTC and ONC have strengthened our relationships, and we continue to collaborate on many levels. For example, FTC competition and consumer protection staff are playing an active role on the Federal Health IT Advisory Council, the interagency working group that helps to develop the federal health IT strategic plan.

We support ONC’s efforts to develop an “interoperability roadmap” and related guidance that will promote competition, efficiency, innovation, and coordination of care, while achieving ONC’s overall policy goals. We are working with ONC staff to identify potential competition issues relating to health IT platforms and standards, market concentration, conduct by market participants, and the ability of health IT purchasers to make informed buying decisions. ONC’s companion blog post highlights some of the areas of mutual interest.

In return, we are benefitting from ONC’s expertise and industry knowledge as we learn more about how health IT markets operate, which health IT features are desired by providers and patients, and what types of conduct may benefit or harm health IT competition and innovation. ONC staff are helping us to evaluate issues that may be worthy of additional FTC research, advocacy, and investigation.

FTC staff, together with our ONC partners, will continue to pay close attention to developments in health IT markets. We already know that competition is central to improving health care quality and outcomes, reducing costs, and improving the consumer experience. We and ONC agree that competition in health IT markets is equally important to drive quality and value in health care.


I think you folks are really lagging behind here a bit and no offense just calling it as I see it. I'm a former developer of an EMR in the early days and it's clear the ONC is over their head. On other issues I write to one of your lawyers every week with too big to fail and conflict of interest with health insurers? Does anyone around the FTC write code? I ask just due to the fact I'm trying to maybe figure out of anyone there has some data mechanics logic??

I'll give you a link and the ONC has been introduced to this company but it's a new way to interop with medical records on a platform. We all know in the Health IT business that the ONC is over their heads and it's not all their fault as technology is going so fast.

They are trying to regulate where they can't and again the technologies are over their heads as the way everything built on itself.

The link above will show a platform that even the DOD and VA can start using today to integrate. I know its political in nature as I read the stuff and blog on it every day. With this platform, millions will be saved and the patient's chart never has to leave the MD or hospital but it's integrated on the fly if you will to briefly explain. Actually this platform too has an open API and will help keep the smaller to medium size EMRs in business and keep enough competition out there, as I'm talking to many of them about it and they are worried about the big guys taking over their turf.

The ONC is oblivious too on their blue button routine as well for consumers, seniors. They do great work won tech toolkits, and pat themselves on the back and then yet nothing to reach out and help seniors, the blue button is the best kept secret for seniors that's available. I know as I deal in the real world and I tell seniors about it all the time, they don't know and the ONC seems to think that an already over taxed systems of hospitals and doctors will do the leg work, which is wrong as they don't have time. I tried to get funded to do it myself, but again they are too wrapped up in virtual values versus the real world. I see it all the time.

I really think the ONC would do better as their own entity at the FDA right now as the FDA has more "real world" values working and it would help keep these folks focused on the real world and not get lost in virtual values too. I have a post on that by the way can read that here as it's everywhere with people confusing virtual world values with the real world, huge problem.

Where is the precise inflection point at which "health competition" becomes "predatory competition"? And is government capable of guiding us to "healthy competition" -- whatever that is? "Healthy" for whom?


Add new comment

Comment Policy

Privacy Act Statement

It is your choice whether to submit a comment. If you do, you must create a user name, or we will not post your comment. The Federal Trade Commission Act authorizes this information collection for purposes of managing online comments. Comments and user names are part of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) public records system (PDF), and user names also are part of the FTC’s computer user records system (PDF). We may routinely use these records as described in the FTC’s Privacy Act system notices. For more information on how the FTC handles information that we collect, please read our privacy policy.