At Cerner, interoperability is personal

'It's time for vendors, even as they continue to compete in the marketplace, to break down their data silos'
By Bernie Monegain
10:47 AM
Share
Cerner CEO Neal Patterson makes push for interoperability.

Cerner CEO Neal Patterson put EHR interoperability front and center during the Cerner Health Conference – a client gathering that drew as many as 11,000 participants to the Kansas City Convention Center this week.

Kansas City is headquarters for the healthcare IT giant.

[See also: Epic, Cerner reap benefits of meaningful use.]

On Tuesday Patterson delivered a keynote talk that made the quest for interoperability personal by invoking the travails of his wife Jeanne as she carried bags of healthcare documents from one location to another around the country during her battles with cancer.

"As a country, we’re making progress, but not fast enough," Patterson was quoted as saying by Kansas City Star reporter Diane Stafford, who wrote: "Without naming Cerner’s prime competitor in hospital IT systems, Epic, Patterson said there remains a 'black hole' in interoperability."

Cerner, of course, is a founding member of CommonWell Health Alliance, a coalition of EHR competitors -- Allscripts, athenahealth, Greenway and others -- that seeks to ease data exchange across systems and settings.

On Wednesday, Patterson announced in a blog that Cerner would provide free CommonWell services to all its clients for three years.

[See also: Intermountain begins Cerner rollout.]

"Cerner will provide CommonWell services to our clients for free until Jan. 1, 2018," Patterson wrote in a Nov. 5 blog post. "We will have a nominal setup fee. We believe that by providing the service free for three years, it will give your organization the chance to evaluate the service."

[See also: Six HIT heavy-hitters announce interoperability organization.]

"It's time for vendors, even as they continue to compete in the marketplace, to break down their data silos, Patterson said at the news conference announcing the initiative "Our government is not going to deal with this problem."

Cerner, McKesson, Allscripts, athenahealth, Greenway and RelayHealth were the founding members of CommonWell. Several more EHR vendors have joined since. However, Cerner's top rival, Epic, has not. Epic CEO Judy Falkner said soon after CommonWell was formed that Epic had not been invited.

In his blog post, Patterson writes that "CommonWell membership remains open to all health IT vendors."

He also makes reference to the keynote he delivered at the Cerner client conference on Tuesday.

"For those who were not here for my keynote, my topic in part was fixing my wife Jeanne's record – making the case for using CommonWell’s interoperability services to get rid of the need for her to carry bags and bags of records to each and every appointment," he writes.

"Jeanne has been fighting stage IV metastatic breast cancer for six years. Her records have wound up in more than 20 different health organization EMRs as she's progressed on her 'journey' of therapies and surgeries. CommonWell is an attempt to address many of the barriers to solving that problem."