Cerner Corporation, a supplier of health information technology solutions, says it will open up its electronic health record (EHR) system to third party developers, as it eyes a massive leap in growth over the coming years.
Cerner has a reputation of keeping all developments in-house, but the fast-paced digital health growth has had the company rethinking its strategy and with this, it plans to open up to third party developers.
Speaking at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, Cerner CEO Brent Shafer said that although they loved to build things in-house, if the company wanted to move faster, then it had to be open to strategic partners.
“We love to build things, we really love to build things. And we, frankly, prefer to do it ourselves. And it goes pretty deep in our background and it’s part of our DNA. We recognize at this point there’s so much to do, and so much opportunity out there to address, that we need to be very thoughtful about the things we build ourselves and how we prioritize our resources, and where we want to strategically partner to move forward faster. The need is strong. Doing it all ourselves is not always the best answer,” Shafer said.
In addition, Shafer said Cerner was focused on being a good partner in the transformation of healthcare. He said his company was working on being a partner of choice for third party developers and if they found the right partner “with good synergy, we can move at a faster rate.”
Shafer, who has been with Cerner for just under a year, said information sharing was going to be critical, as the next decade was going to bring massive digital transformation.
”The EHR is foundational in that transformation and in how healthcare is delivered. Cerner, as we go forward, will increasingly become about that platform; how we leverage it; how we deliver on those opportunities,” he said.
In a nutshell, Shafer said Cerner was now making its EHR software more valuable to providers, as the company moves from an “EHR-centric” company to a “platform” organization, thus making it easier for developers to build apps into Cerner’s software that enable artificial intelligence (AI) to improve physician workflow. Shafer said Cerner will “accelerate the environment for third-party development.”
This is not the first time that Cerner has hinted at third party collaboration, as this issue was also raised in 2017. Then, Cerner said it intended to open up its Application Programming Interface (API) “to development partners, who are committed to enhancing the utility of EHRs at the point of care means they understand that EHRs need to evolve and should be viewed positively by the broad base of stakeholders seeking openness and interoperability.”
The Inferscience website described the opening of APIs to third party developers as “positive steps in the right direction,” because this was a first step towards true interoperability by the EHR vendor community.
At the time, Cerner’s president said they were working with third parties to realize the “full value of all the investment in healthcare.”
In explaining future collaborations with third party developers, David McCallie Jr Cerner’s senior vice president of medical informatics said last December: “We think that the EHR of the future will have lots of little apps or components that deliver some of the really deep and complicated clinical knowledge that the EHR vendor [itself] is not going to try to manage. We’re not going to build a genome browser, but we would be happy to put a SMART app into the workflow that makes it easy for someone else’s genome browser to be accessible to the clinician” through a browser-agnostic interface.
Cerner has reiterated in the past that it is committed to a health data standard such as the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FIHR), which allows third parties to build apps into core healthcare information systems.
“FHIR is kind of like the web for health care. We’re going to see a world of difference in the way health care presents itself in the next decade. Everyone learns from each other in an open environment,” Wayne Kubick, chief technology officer for Health Level 7 International (HL7), a standards-developing nonprofit, explained.
Cerner hopes that third party developed apps will allow it “to extend the capabilities of its health record system, and keep its own IP buttoned up while facilitating competition.”
Cerner, together with competitor, Epic Systems account for half of the U.S. hospital market for EHRs.