McKesson-Cerner collaboration event at HIMSS: interoperability omen or pre-game hype?

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bigstock-Business-people-collaborate-to-28350953Competitiveness between electronic medical record companies and, to be fair, providers, has been a pretty big obstacle to the magic healthcare IT word interoperability. But with EPIC as the dominant player and rival companies McKesson and Cerner in search of greater market share, it’s enough to spur some sort of  alliance, and a joint announcement at HIMSS for some sort of collaboration first hinted at earlier this month is happening next week. Until then, all we can do is speculate. So let’s get started.

How are groups in the health IT sector and on the sidelines interpreting this? Mostly positive with some cautious optimism. Interoperability is key for health information exchanges, and are among the requirements of meaningful use. But health information exchanges are also diverse and can range from queries for patient records across departments within one hospital to queries for records between hospitals within a health system. The more cynical point of view suggests it’s some pregame hype to get the companies more press attention ahead of the conference. At least we’re doing our bit.

New York eHealth Collaborative Executive Director David Whitlinger allowed that if the Cerner-McKesson event were about interoperability, that would be a step in the right direction. “Any interoperability is a good thing. Hopefully it won’t amount to building another silo.”

John Moore, the founder and managing partner of Boston-based Chilmark Research pointed out that Cerner’s acquisition of PureWellness earlier this week along with its HealtheIntent initiative reflects its goal to be more than an electronic medical record vendor.  In a post last week, he noted that healthcare IT vendors are trying to position themselves for the emerging accountable care organization market. “Both [Cerner and McKesson]are struggling to compete effectively with EPIC and are trying to take a more open approach to the market. The question is will they be able to get other EHR companies to work with them?”

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Dr. Edmund Billings made a good point on The Health Care Blog a couple weeks back on the subject of interoperability.

The proprietary business model makes the vendor the single source of HIT for hospital clients. Complexity and dependence are baked into both solutions and client relationships, creating a “vendor lock” scenario in which changing systems seems almost inconceivable.

Ultimately, no health IT company can be all things to all providers, which makes collaboration interesting news. It will be interesting to see how all this pans out next week.

[Photo Credit: Collaborate to Build from BigStock Photo]

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Stephanie Baum

By Stephanie Baum

Stephanie Baum is the East Coast Innovation Reporter for MedCityNews.com. She enjoys covering healthcare startups across health IT, drug development and medical devices and innovations deployed to improve medical care. She graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania and has worked across radio, print and video. She's written for The Christian Science Monitor, Dow Jones & Co. and United Business Media.
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