The health IT system of the future needs to be more dynamic than the one in place today. With hospitals assuming more financial risk, moving toward population health management, responding to calls for greater transparency and enabling consumers to take more control of their health care, IT systems will be the linchpin for getting to the second, third and fourth curves. Leaders will need a fully integrated view of clinical and financial data, says Russ Branzell, CEO and president of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives.
That’s one of the things that makes Cerner’s pending $1.3 billion acquisition of Siemens’ health IT unit so intriguing. Siemens’ financial applications seem to complement Cerner’s market position on the clinical front. Plus, the companies will be able to direct a combined $4 billion to R&D, Cerner CEO Neal Patterson stated in a release last week.
“In addition, the alliance we’re creating will drive the next generation of innovations that embed information from the EMR inside advanced diagnostic and therapeutic technologies, benefiting our shared clients,” Patterson added.
In other words, as he said during a conference call with reporters, the deal positions the company for the post-meaningful use era.
Cerner officials have pledged to support Siemens products for at least a decade, but it seems logical that the two organizations would create a more synergistic approach.
“When I was at Partners HealthCare, we put in systems that supported the transactional nature of health care,” John Glaser told me during a phone interview last Friday. Glaser, the former CIO at Boston-based Partners, is CEO of Siemens’ health services unit. “The characteristic that is needed now is more intelligence.”
He says that we’ll begin to see the EHR be more intelligent with such things as workflow engines and reconciling inconsistencies in the medical record and elsewhere. Health IT systems also need to adjust to team-based orientation, as opposed to being built around individual-driven care, he says. Glaser spoke to us about this very concept last year. (As an aside, Glaser, who is a regular contributor to H&HN Daily, says that he is interested in being part of the Cerner-Siemens team moving forward. He couldn’t elaborate on what that role might be as details of the acquisition are still in negotiations and it must clear regulatory hurdles.)
Increasingly, boards and hospital executives are asking CIOs and vendors to accelerate the implementation of smarter IT systems, says Dan Herman, managing principal and founder of the IT consultancy Aspen Advisors.
“The biggest frustration we hear from boards and executives is that sense that their systems are not there yet,” he says. “It’s not the future, it’s today.”
No one is suggesting that the Cerner-Siemens combination will suddenly propel integrated and interoperable systems into hyperdrive, but it does seem to juice things up a bit.