Does 3M’s Acquisition of CodeRyte Represent a Defensive Strategy?

APR 30

This week’s announcement that 3M has acquired CodeRyte was a surprise as much as it was completely predictable.  On one hand, 3M Health Information Systems has had enjoyed what seemed at times to be a near ubiquitous presence in the coding solutions market for years and has been noticeably absent in the M&A arena since 2006 when it acquired SoftMed Systems (note: the $230M acquisition of Attenti in 2010 sits within 3M’s Track and Trace Solutions division).  However, with the impending move to ICD-10 in October 2014 as well as a broader trend toward greater levels of clinical documentation granularity and improved data management and analytics capabilities in healthcare, it is completely understandable that 3M had to make a provocative move to both protect its market share and strengthen its ability to deliver value to its provider customers in a highly regulated, increasingly complex healthcare environment.  The fact that 3M has had a reseller arrangement with CodeRyte since 2009 is further evidence of the existing relationship and fit between the two organizations.

With that being said 3M’s move to acquire CodeRyte represents, in our opinion, a potential defensive strategy to maintain its leadership position in coding and documentation improvement.  While not conclusive, there are a host of data points that seem to support this assertion:

  • Heavy reliance on legacy encoder and grouper technologies – 3M’s leading flagship products provide a lot of financial stability for the organization, but these technologies are becoming dated amid the industry’s ongoing evolution and other, more nimble solutions coming to market
  • Success and momentum of Optum and A-Life – Optum’s acquisition of A-Life has been very successful in the marketplace as of late, further challenging 3M’s existing position in computer assisted coding (CAC)
  • Uptake of point of care workflow tools – While 3M’s 360 Encompass System provides an intriguing bridge between customer’s financial and clinical data at the point of care, this solution is relatively new and has presumably not had the sort of uptake that meaningfully impacts the division’s top-line
  • Limited success in penetrating adjacent markets – 3M has struggled to extend its solution set into growing opportunities with payers, Health Information Exchanges (HIEs), and Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs).  Payers, for one, represent a huge counter-market to the providers as the entire healthcare industry looks to neutralize the impact of the ICD-10 transition

This isn’t to say that the combination of 3M and CodeRyte isn’t innovative – in fact, the addition of CodeRyte’s Natural Language Processing (NLP) and CAC capabilities could greatly improve the workflow efficiencies at the end-user level.  However, the need of 3M to bolster and extend its coding capabilities is apparent as emerging clinical, financial, and compliance objectives increasingly require a more pervasive data management and analytics platform delivered at the point of care and throughout the healthcare ecosystem (providers, payers, EMR vendors, consumers, etc.) to solve a range of increasingly complex and intermingled challenges.

Seth Kneller
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