With the acquisition by Cerner Corp. of the electronic health-record system and other parts of the health services business unit of Siemens Healthcare moving ahead, it's likely at least some Siemens healthcare customers are worrying about the future of Siemens' Soarian line of EHR software they're currently using.
John Glaser, the Siemens unit's CEO, in a telephone interview Monday wanted to convey a clear message that changes in the merged entity will be thought through and deliberate, particularly when it comes to the life cycle of Siemens' flagship Soarian line.
What's job 1 in merging the two big companies? “Don't break anything,” Glaser said.
Siemens ranked eighth in the number of hospital clients that used complete EHR systems to meet their meaningful-use criteria and get paid under the federal EHR incentive payment program, looking at data available in late April. Siemens' numbers are somewhat skewed, since its clients tend to be larger hospitals than those served by several of its higher-ranking competitors.
Cerner ranked fourth, according to federal program data. The new, combined Cerner would leapfrog Computer Program and Systems Inc. and nudge out Meditech to rank No. 2, but still fall 16% or so short of top dog Epic Systems in this lucrative EHR market niche.
Siemens, really, had no choice other than to get larger or get out of the field, Glaser said.
“From the perspective of the industry, it's fairly clear to me, if you are going to be a health IT vendor, you have to have scale, considerable scale,” to keep up with all the changes being thrown at the industry and developers. “Part of the conclusions we had, as big as we were, we were not as big as we needed to be,” he said.
Teaming up with Cerner will create “serious potency,” Glaser said. “I think the customer base we serve will be better off for it.”
A first round of job offers for Siemens' 5,500 employees went out two weeks ago. Others will continue through mid-December, Glaser said. Cerner has announced plans to buy the Siemens corporate campus in Malvern, Pa.
“People seemed pleased,” he said. “We want to hire everybody and keep things growing. Not everybody will join. I think we'll get about a 95% acceptance rate.”
Naturally, Cerner also wants as many as possible of Siemens' current customers eventually “to come over,” Glaser said. But since Cerner has made “a commitment to Soarian for over a decade,” it will ensure the transitions are not forced immediately and will be more in line with customers' needs and timelines.
Teams from Cerner and Siemens have been working for about a month on what lesser systems should stay and what will be dropped. That group is due to come up with some recommendations around Dec. 1, but it won't be until mid-January before any product phase outs are made definitive, he said.
“It may be that we terminate some stuff, but I don't see that will be near term,” he said. “Providers have a lot of pressure on them and we don't want to trigger an unnecessary move from product A to product B,” Glaser said. “The intention here is to grow.”
As for his own role, Glaser said he's had several discussions with Cerner honchos, CEO Neal Patterson and President Zane Burke, about that.
Glaser said one possible area for him is representing the company in the healthcare IT policy arena, drawing on his previous experience as an adviser to Dr. David Blumenthal during the latter's stint as head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS from 2009 to 2011. He also will guide Cerner in the areas of market innovation, and serve, as other top Cerner leaders do, as a company liaison and consigliore to major Cerner clients.
Glaser, the former vice president and chief information officer of Partners healthcare system, posted a blog on the Cerner website, giving a progress report and announcing that when the deal closes—in February—he'll join Kansas City, Mo.-based Cerner as a senior vice president. A former vice president and CIO of Partners Healthcare System, he joined Siemens in the summer of 2010.
Follow Joseph Conn on Twitter: @MHJConn