Health IT

Cerner president says company is all about interoperability

Whatever is being said about “information blocking” at the federal level isn’t fazing Cerner President Zane Burke.

Whatever is being said about “information blocking” at the federal level isn’t fazing Cerner President Zane Burke. “Mostly, it’s just the right thing to do,” Burke said on the topic of electronic health records interoperability.

Speaking to MedCity News at the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives Fall CIO Forum in Orlando, Florida, Burke agreed with a recent Chilmark Research assessment that healthcare providers share much of the blame for the slow pace of data sharing. “The data-hoarding issues are broader than the vendors,” Burke said. More than a few organizations, including Cerner customers, have not made interoperability a priority.

Fee-for-service reimbursement is at the root of some of that, as health systems fear losing patients — read “revenue” — to competitors if they were to make their electronic health records interoperable, according to Burke. “An at-risk world incents people to share data,” he said.

Healthcare, of course, is heading toward an at-risk world, as Medicare and other payers increasingly are basing reimbursements on outcomes or are at least bundling payments for groups of services. That is slowly increasing interoperability. “I do like the trend line toward where interoperability is heading,” Burke said.

Burke said he was mostly happy with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology’s newly published interoperability roadmap, though he did indicate he wanted “additional clarity” on some points. “We want to see that the patient’s data is the patient’s data,” Burke said.

Cerner, of course, is a founding member of the CommonWell Health Alliance, a coalition that now covers about 70 percent of the acute care EHR market and close to a third of the ambulatory market, as well as some government and retail partners. Burke said that CommonWell has completed its proof of concept with successful pilots and now is in general release.

Cerner’s customers include 18 of the 30 largest private-sector health networks in the country, Burke said, plus the vendor recently won the contract to replace the Military Health System’s EHR, a deal that could be worth as much as $9 billion. This scale, he said, will help build out the national CommonWell network.

Small medical practices eventually will join the interoperability effort, Burke predicted. “We need to light up the network and show the value,” Burke said. He expects another round of consolidation in the EHR market serving small ambulatory providers, something that also could accelerate data sharing.

Cerner also is pushing interoperability through an analytics and population health management tool called HealtheIntent, Burke said; Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania signed up just this week, and Advocate Health Care in Illinois also is a customer. This is part of a trend toward “layers above the EHR,” Burke said.

This is the part of the market where non-EHR companies like Salesforce, NantHealth, IBM Watson Health and Qualcomm Life are playing, but Cerner is bullish. “This is probably the fastest-growing part of our business,” Burke said.