Cerner unveils new interoperability tools, as CEO Brent Shafer says 'innovation is accelerating'

At the Cerner Health Conference, CEO Brent Shafer said COVID-19 has "inspired a burst of innovation," with hundreds of patents and faster progress for a wider array of technologies moving from concept to general availability.
By Mike Miliard
03:03 PM
Cerner CEO Brent Shafer speaks at the virtual Cerner Health Conference 2020

Cerner CEO Brent Shafer speaks at the virtual Cerner Health Conference 2020

At the 35th annual Cerner Health Conference, which launched virtually on Tuesday, CEO Brent Shafer described the many ways the company has been helping providers around the world deliver high-quality healthcare more efficiently during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We created tools to reduce strain on your technology infrastructure, to identify at-risk patients and to enable fact-based, data-driven decision-making," he said.

Cerner also unveiled a pair of new technology suites on Tuesday: Cerner Unite, which the company describes as a group of interoperability tools designed to take data exchange "beyond just connectivity to true usability," and Cerner Discover, a new portfolio of designed to work alongside Unite to "improve data quality, simplify data reconciliation and seamlessly integrate data-driven insights into clinician workflows – on any health platform."

The company also said it would release new dashboard technology in early 2021 to help health system tackle social determinants of health – by detecting social disparities in patient populations and pinpointing areas where resources are needed. The tools will use geospatial analytics and the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index to help physicians spot vulnerabilities by zip codes, thus reducing emergency department uses through better management of chronic conditions.

In his opening keynote at CHC, Shafer described the many ways the COVID-19 crisis has shown the need for better analytics and interoperability, and some of the many ways Cerner has been helping its clients deliver better care during the pandemic.

For instance, Cerner's Learning Health Network – a collaboration with Duke Clinical Research Institute that automates data collection from an array of EHR and sources – "holds the promise to dramatically accelerate the time it takes to bring new therapies to market," he said. "COVID-19 certainly has demonstrated that 17 years and 2.5 billion dollars to bring new therapies to market is just not acceptable."

At Cerner, COVID-19 "inspired a burst of innovation," said Shafer, as the company rushed to support urgent caregiver and patient needs.

For instance, Cerner's Resurgence Risk Index "uses confirmed cases, testing and mortality rates to forecast where outbreaks could occur all around the world." And in the U.S., "our utilization map not only provides a two-week forecast of county level case counts, but it also assesses whether counties have enough ICU beds, ventilators and other resources to meet the demand."

Tools such as those "will remain useful beyond COVID-19, particularly as you ramp up your backlog of elective procedures," said Shafer.

Meanwhile, "innovation is accelerating," he said. "Many of the products we've talked about in years past are moving from concept to general availability."

"For instance, I talked about seamless interoperability last year while it was in testing. Now called Seamless Exchange, it's the industry's most robust interoperability product, and it launches in just a few months. I also mentioned the Command Center. It's a monitoring dashboard that's now delivering valuable situational awareness during COVID-19, a time when every resource matters."

Shafer noted that the company has amassed nearly 600 patents over its four decade existence. "That's more than all of our core competitors combined. And we added almost 100 so far this year. I'm very proud of our engineers for making that happen in the year of COVID-19."

This past year, "we invested almost $800 million in products and technology, all focused on making care delivery more effective and cost efficient," he said. "When this once-in-100-year global pandemic hit, we put our experience and resources to work, whether it was quickly setting up field hospitals, tracking the spread of the virus, or helping you better care for patients. We rushed to support your work at the onset of COVID-19."

For example, Shafer pointed to Philadelphia's Einstein Medical Center, which wanted to limit COVID-19 spread by identifying and reaching out to high-risk patients.

"They used our AWS-powered data science tool called HealtheDataLab to identify vulnerable patients with underlying conditions" he explained. "In the process, they ended up contacting more than 4,000 high risk patients. Over 3,000 of them booked telehealth appointments, filled prescriptions or were referred on to other specialists.

"Knowing the depth of our scale around the world, if we all took a similar action, as many as 3 million at risk patients would have the opportunity to take an action before being diagnosed," Shafer added. "And as we think about taking care of large populations, this level of proactive risk monitoring and early engagement has an obvious lasting benefit, especially in this era of value based care."

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS publication.

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