Cerner tackles interoperability from two new angles

Its launch of portal-connected consumer health record and extension of free CommonWell exchange services are meant to show commitment to interoperability, "no matter what the definition," said President Zane Burke.
By Mike Miliard
03:25 PM
cerner interoperability

At the 2017 Cerner Health Conference this week, attended by more than 16,000 customers from around the world, the company put interoperability and patient access front and center.

First, Cerner announced a new consumer-directed patient record, "at our cost," said Cerner President Zane Burke.

That means, he explained, that Cerner "will work in concert" with a given provider's patient portal so every patient "has the ability to take our information and create our own experience."

[Also: Cerner's third-party apps draw crowds at annual conference]

The tool would enable health records to be shared together in one place, rather than separate providers running on separate systems.

He added that "it's time for the patient to be part of the care team, and it's time for us to embrace that."

Burke also announced an extension of free CommonWell services to Cerner customers, for three more years through 2020.

Cerner, of course, was one of the founding members of the CommonWell Health Alliance, alongside competitor EHR vendors such as Allscripts, athenahealth and Greenway.

Since its launch in 2013 – and since Cerner first offered free access to the service at the Cerner Health Conference the following year – the initiative has grown significantly, with more than five dozen companies enabling easier data sharing across 60 million patient records.

"It shouldn't matter if it's Cerner's EHR or someone else's EHR," said Burke. "We need data from multiple places, and we need that data to flow freely."

Just how to define interoperability has often been a point of contention in the healthcare industry, but for Cerner the definition is simple, he said: It's "Can I have my patient record?" 

That patient-focused approach to data exchange is especially poignant at this user conference, the first since the passing of Cerner founder and CEO Neal Patterson this past summer, followed shortly afterward by Patterson's wife, Jean Lillig Patterson, who had spent years fighting breast cancer while transporting her own medical charts from doctor to doctor.

Before he died, Patterson implored his company to "fix Jeanne’s health record," according to the Kansas City Business Journal.

That's part of the impetus behind the re-upped commitment to CommonWell and the consumer patient record, Burke told the KCBJ.

"If you want your health record, you should be able to have it, much like a bank account and an ATM," he said. "You have to think about that consumer-directed patient health record in the same way."

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
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