The EHR sector's No. 2 vendor, Cerner Corp., swept into the HIMSS 2015 show with an agenda that included competing for new customers with industry leader Epic Systems Corp., and proclaiming that it's holding on to big customers it acquired when it bought Siemens AG's EHR unit last year.
And so, in the middle of the weeklong conference and exhibition -- the biggest, most high-profile health IT show of the year, held in mid-April in Chicago -- Cerner rolled out its newest senior vice president to deliver the news: Three big former Siemens customers are staying under the Cerner umbrella and stepping up to Cerner's flagship EHR system, Millennium.
That top executive was John Glaser, the former CEO of Siemens' Health Services Business unit and a health IT luminary who was the founding chairman of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives.
Glaser a plus for Cerner
For Cerner, it was something of a coup to keep Glaser, who also teaches at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, in the fold.
John Glasersenior VP, Cerner
For Glaser, his appearance at a media breakfast at HIMSS 2015 was an opportunity to stamp a public imprimatur on the newly conjoined Cerner-Siemens entity and to preserve the legacy of the popular Siemens EHR, Soarian.
Glaser said 97% of the former Siemens unit's workforce is remaining with Cerner after Cerner's $1.3 billion acquisition of the German conglomerate's former EHR division, and some major customers are, too.
"We're beginning to see traction in people staying with Cerner," Glaser said from a small stage he shared with executives from three healthcare systems with which Cerner is working on co-development projects, and with the executive director of CommonWell Health Alliance, the multivendor interoperability group of which Cerner is a member.
Glaser said, though, that the EHRs of the future will look a lot different than those of today with the sharp movement toward population health management driven by new payment models.
"There's a big transformation. The systems of yore will look different," Glaser said.
Notable Siemens users switching to Millennium
Initially, the former Siemens customers that are migrating to Cerner's Millennium include:
- Commonwealth Health, a five-hospital system in northeastern Pennsylvania
- Charleston Area Medical Center, a three-hospital network in West Virginia
- University of South Alabama Health System
The University of South Alabama Health System's CIO, Mark Lauteren, told SearchHealthIT at HIMSS 2015 that the healthcare system is replacing a hodgepodge of five different EHRs -- including Soarian as its main clinical system -- with Millennium.
The changeover is planned as a "big bang" installation starting in July 2016, Lauteren said.
Asked for his reaction on hearing about Cerner's Siemens acquisition in August 2014, Lauteren said: "Hallelujah."
"We were not in a good place," he added.
As for the attributes that attracted him to the Cerner platform, Lauteren said he liked the company's technology and also its development resources, which are considerably greater than Siemens' were and also superior to his other EHR vendors'.
"We like the open architecture," Lauteren said. "We love the integration of clinical, ambulatory and population health."
Cerner vs. Epic
In fact, Cerner has long touted openness of design as one of its advantages in its ongoing battle with Epic, which it has long painted as building closed systems.
At HIMSS 2015, Glaser and Joanne Burns, senior vice president and chief strategy officer for Cerner, said they are presenting Cerner to potential new customers as a company willing to collaborate on custom-designed systems.
"A lot of what we do is about what the problems are we're trying to solve," Burns said at the media breakfast. "Organizations more and more are looking for a lot of partners, [for] who's going to guide me in the long-term future as a partner."
Without mentioning Epic by name, the Cerner executives said they also differentiate Cerner by not focusing on revenue generators such as the per-transaction fees that Epic was charging for interactions with its corporate health information exchange until the company abruptly stopped the practice in the midst of HIMSS 2015.
Cerner advertised the Epic move on the walls of its booth at the show, in a subtle poke at its adversary, which Cerner implicity alleged caved in under pressure from both the government and Cerner itself.
Meanwhile, Politico reported Epic denied that its dropping of the $2.50 transaction fee was in reaction to the government's report on information blocking released on the eve of HIMSS 2015. Many in the health IT business believed the report implicated Epic, although it did not do so by name.
And while Cerner is working hard to close the gap with Epic -- the Siemens acquisition has helped do that at least in terms of total market share when Cerner's and former Siemens' sites are aggregated -- a recent KLAS report said Epic still leads Cerner by a 2-1 margin in terms of new buying decisions.
That margin, however, was 3-1 last year, according to KLAS.
Cerner Corp. finalizes deal with Siemens
Epic makes announcement about venture into cloud
Analytics and interoperability in the mix at HIMSS 2015
Cerner Corp. wins U.S. DoD contract over Epic