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Major EHR market deal pleases Siemens customers

Users of Siemens AG's Soarian EHR systems see a bright future under the umbrella of EHR mega-company Cerner Corp. because they will get access to Cerner's ample resources.

In the wake of Cerner Corp.'s $1.3 billion acquisition of Siemens AG's health IT business, Siemens users reacted positively to the move, which will likely give Siemens customers access to Cerner's clinical EHR platform while preserving Siemens' popular workflow and financial systems, and patient portal.

The merged company appears to put Cerner -- up until now number two in the EHR market -- ahead of archrival Epic Systems Corp., and could result in the forced migration of many of Siemens' several hundred customers to the Cerner system. The merger also gives Cerner momentum in Europe, where Siemens' German roots have made it a dominant player.

Cerner seen as holding and developing Soarian technology

"It's tremendous. I'm excited," said Peg Kauth, assistant vice president at New Jersey's CentraState Healthcare System, one of Siemens' first major customers and a user of Siemens' Soarian EHR system since 2007. "The partnership -- from a business perspective -- will lift Siemens to new heights."

Cerner is a very large player in the market, so there will be more opportunities for Siemens customers.
Phil Kahninterim CIO, UMass Memorial Health Care

Kauth said Cerner has signaled that it will continue to develop and support Soarian, which is viewed by its customers as an elegant technology that Siemens has maintained well but has had trouble upgrading.

"I was happy to hear [Cerner CEO and Chairman] Neal Patterson say they would continue to develop the Soarian workflow engine," Kauth continued. "Soarian is an incredible product. The problem has been getting development of it, getting the things we need. Siemens has had different methodologies under different leadership."

Cerner could offer Siemens users an upgrade path

At another Soarian site, the outlook was similarly optimistic. Phil Kahn, interim CIO at UMass Memorial Health Care in Worcester, Mass., New England's second-largest healthcare system, said the merged company will likely bring Siemens customers access to Cerner's considerable technological and financial resources.

"I think it's going to have a positive impact on the Siemens customers," Kahn said. "Cerner is a very large player in the market, so there will be more opportunities for Siemens customers. Cerner is a very solid company, and it's reassuring to customers to have Cerner behind them and provide them with a solid path."

Regarding the prospect of Cerner upselling Siemens users to its relatively expensive turnkey products, Kahn said that is possible, but it is a long-term prospect.

"Ultimately there's a lifecycle of 10 years in everyone's software systems," he said. "Down the road, UMass will be a looking for a system, and it provides us with an interesting option."

For now, Kauth said she has been shopping for an EHR program for her healthcare system's radiology department, and hadn't been considering Cerner. Now she will, she said.

Merger to bring changes

That kind of thinking lends credence to industry analysts who saw the Cerner acquisition of the German conglomerate's health IT division as a play not only to build EHR market share and obtain Siemens' technology, but also sell to Siemens' customers.

As for merging the cultures and workforces of the two companies, Kauth said while top-level moves in sales and other management areas are likely, she anticipates few changes in the ground-level sales and support organization.

One possible long-term move Kauth sees Cerner making is incorporating Siemens' Soarian workflow engine into its single solution Millenium platform.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Shaun Sutner, news and features writeror contact @SSutner on Twitter. 

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