Healthcare alliance Premier last week formalized a partnership with Cerner Corp. that's intended to greatly reduce both the expense and implementation time involved in acquiring a clinical data repository.
The business relationship creates incentives to skip many of the time-consuming and costly steps traditionally taken by hospital customers in evaluating big-ticket information systems, said Jeffrey Petry, Premier principal in charge of information technology services.
By giving its alliance members pre-negotiated favorable terms and an inside track on implementation and technical support, Premier's contract with Cerner "allows members to take the cost out of the acquisition process," Petry said.
He said the exclusive arrangement would wring $1 million out of the final bill for large customers. That's the combined expense typically chalked up by the vendor and prospective buyer to evaluate and respond to a competitive bid.
A Premier study concluded that a 600-bed hospital will spend $868,000 to consider and wrangle over the details of a clinical repository. Attorney fees likely push that expense higher than $900,000, Petry said.
Meanwhile, a vendor's costs of pursuing and winning a hospital contract can total between $250,000 and $500,000, he said.
The agreement calls for Cerner to offer a package of software to Premier members, including a data repository and associated decision-support features to reap value from the database.
Cerner also will dedicate resource teams specifically for Premier member institutions. That's part of a push to make a repository functional within six months of a contract signing, Petry said.
A clinical data repository doesn't start providing value until it's turning information into operational savings while improving patient outcomes. But installations can be long and involved, taking up to two years.
"You don't want to spend two years on a $2 million to $3 million investment before you get a dime's worth of benefit from it," Petry said.
Premier has ironed out a process with Cerner under which a hospital will define an initial scope of implementation that can be up and running and produce substantial benefits within six months. Further implementation can be phased in later to expand and round out the database, he said.
The partnership pits the technology of Kansas City, Mo.-based Cerner against the pick of VHA, an Irving, Texas-based healthcare alliance and Premier's chief competitor.
VHA last month endorsed a clinical repository developed by Oacis Healthcare Systems and said it would promote the product among its 1,400 member healthcare organizations.
Premier represents more than 1,800 hospitals and healthcare systems.