Cerner in partnering state of mind

Analysts see recent alliances as benefiting the health IT vendor
By Bernie Monegain
09:40 AM
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Cerner headquarters photo by Americasroof via Wikipedia

At first glance, it might seem that there is no partnership Cerner would not entertain, but analysts point out recent deals with big-name health systems and with other vendors in the health IT marketplace are strategic and helping to position Cerner for the future.

Back in April when HIMSS15 was underway, Cerner announced two major affiliations – one with Qualcomm and another with Geisinger Health System and xG Health Solutions, Geisinger's commercial spinoff.

The Geisinger and xG Health alliance adds more power to the development of FHIR, the healthcare industry's new found hope for interoperability.

As Cerner sees it, SMART-on-FHIR industry standards will enable the use of software applications across open platform EHRs, such as Cerner Millennium.
SMART is an acronym for Substitutable Medical Applications and Reusable Technology. FHIR – pronounced "fire" – is an acronym for Fast Health Interoperability Resources.

See also: Cerner adds FHIR power and Interoperability: Now Geisinger has an app for that.]

Cerner, xG Health and Geisinger's first initiative under the agreement piloted within Cerner Millennium in October 2014.

It is a Geisinger-developed, Web-based application for managing ambulatory rheumatology encounters. The EnrG | Rheum app – the first of a suite of xG Health EnrG apps – synthesizes information from multiple sources regarding an individual patient and presents it in a clinically useful graphical view along with clinical decision support aimed at increasing quality of care while reducing cost.

Clinicians at two sites saw a 26 percent increase in productivity, due to a decrease in chart review and documentation time, while using the EnrG Rheum software over a two-year period.

This summer, xG Health is expected to launch EnrG Rheum, which will be available through the Cerner Store and other channels.

Analysts at investment research firm Zacks see the potential of Cerner's collaboration with Geisinger and xG Health as favorable for Cerner.

"The demand for improved and robust interoperability expertise is gradually on the rise," Zacks analysts write in an April 16 blog. "This validates Cerner's latest collaboration as an important step toward the advancement of the overall quality of health care."

In the same blog, Zacks analysts are also bullish on Cerner's partnership with Qualcomm and Apple, writing that Cerner "is leaving no stone unturned to expand its business via strategic collaborations. In our view, the company's recent partnerships with the likes of Qualcomm and Apple are significantly accretive for the company's overall growth."

Cerner's alliance with Qualcomm calls for extending Cerner's medical device connectivity capabilities beyond the hospital to the home.

Cerner will leverage Qualcomm Life's FDA listed 2net Platform and Hub to capture data from medical devices and sensors within a patient's home, and transmit it to Cerner healthcare clients through Cerner's CareAware device connectivity platform. The initiative will make it possible for care providers to remotely monitor chronically ill patients in near real-time to enable proactive engagement that could potentially reduce the risk of an acute care episode.

Qualcomm Life will join Cerner's CareAware certification program, an initiative that creates alliances between Cerner and medical device manufacturers to better acquire data from devices to integrate with the EHR via CareAware device connectivity architecture.

Cerner announced back in September 2014 that it would work with Apple to develop apps that would make use of data collected through HealthKit.

At the beginning of April, Cerner released its iOS 8 HealtheLife app, designed to make it easier for patients to manage their health from Apple Watch, with push notification reminders to track health data and a display dashboard for tracked metrics. "This is just the first step in the evolution of sharing personal health data – to provide physicians with access to actionable data anytime, anywhere, not just what’s collected at the doctor's office," Cerner executives said in an April 9 news release.

[See also: Cerner, athenahealth to work with Apple.]

Emory Healthcare and Agnesian HealthCare will be the first health systems to deploy the technology. Emory, the largest health system in Georgia, will receive data from patients through HealthKit. Agnesian, a not-for-profit integrated healthcare system in Wisconsin, will also participate. Each patient will have their own set of devices, including a blood pressure monitor, glucose meter and scale.