With revenue topping $4.8 billion and electronic health record systems deployed in nearly 1,000 hospitals, Cerner Corp. wields significant influence over the state of information technology. The Kansas City, Mo.-based company helped found CommonWell, a collaborative of IT firms hoping to improve information-sharing. Cerner is poised to ink a lucrative contract to overhaul the Veterans Affairs Department's EHR and it's already helping revamp the Defense Department's system. Cerner President Zane Burke recently spoke with Modern Healthcare reporter Rachel Z. Arndt. This is an edited transcript.
Fundamentally, I don't believe any of us should compete on interoperability and information-blocking. And I think the tricky part has to do with overt versus covert. I don't think anybody is going to overtly block in this day and age.
CommonWell is now 50-plus members, in 5,000 sites and almost 60 million patient records. To actually be part of the standards that are there and now, with the kind of scale we are gaining, it's really time for everybody to be part of CommonWell. Through the use of CommonWell and through the use of our tools, we will allow data—no matter the EHR—to be consumed into Millennium (Cerner's EHR platform).
That's a big difference between how we look at it versus how our core competitor does. By the way, we will do all the heavy lifting on the reconciliation. There are demonstrable things we can do that are not just Cerner-to-Cerner.
There is a role for standards, but we think the consumer-directed personal health record is a huge leap on a statement about how we are going to play in the interoperability space. We are providing any patient at any one of our facilities the ability to have their own personal health record and then be able to self-direct and add information. At the fundamental level my view is, and Cerner's view is, you should have the right to your own patient record no matter where it is.
And let there be no doubt about that. We think that's a place for providers to also step up and play their role, because it's not just a technology piece.
I have also used the word "open"—open interoperable. What I mean by that is the platform is open to others' writing. The SMART on FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) standard is great and shows great promise. I think that is an area where industry and government can collaborate to have a good set of standards.
VA and Defense contracts
We anticipate having a contract with the VA before the end of the fourth quarter. I am excited and really anxious to get past this phase and get to the real hard work side of this and make things come to life, because when you have the opportunity to have a lifetime record for servicemen and women and have an impact on their healthcare and ultimately help on their health status-this is a unique opportunity.
One of the big keys is seamless care, and not just the Defense Department and the VA but also seamless care for the communities that they go between. And so, interoperability is absolutely an important part of that and not just Cerner systems, but all EHRs out there. I believe this can be a transformational agent in the interoperability game, and those that are going to do business going forward with the VA will want to have those highly interoperable systems and participate at a very high level. We all ought to just get past whether this is anything we ought to compete on and say, "This is just the right thing for the industry today."
MACRA and vendor readiness
I am not concerned about that as much the partner side. There is always work to do, and continuing regulations and requirements add complexity to the business, but that is part of what we have all signed up for as being in this business. I am probably more concerned about client readiness than I am about technical readiness.
There doesn't seem to be quite the same level of focus from our clients as there was about other initiatives, and I am not sure what the cause of that is; is it because there is a regulatory uncertainty on what's going to happen with the current administration? Is there some fatigue from all the other regulations and meaningful use and some of those elements?