Interoperability deal could bring Cerner, McKesson together

Hints of a deal between North Kansas City, Mo.-based Cerner Corp. and New York-based McKesson Corp. could move the health IT industry a step closer to long-awaited interoperability of patient information exchange between electronic health record system vendors. 

An unnamed source told SearchHealthIT's Don Fluckinger that the two companies are working on a deal to make their systems interoperable for the purpose of national health information exchange. An announcement could come as soon as the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's annual convention in New Orleans early next month, Fluckinger writes.

At press time, neither company had returned phone calls from FierceEMR.

Lack of interoperability between vendors has been a major reason efforts to create a national health information exchange haven't truly taken off.

At the 2013 AcademyHealth National Health Policy Conference this week in Washington, D.C., National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari talked specifically about promoting interoperability among EHR vendors, EHR Intelligence reports.

Vendors, he said, would need to agree to standards for such exchange.

Several health IT stakeholders, including hospital CIOs and representatives from EHR vendors, talked about interoperability and other health data exchange hurdles at a joint public hearing held by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's HIT Policy and Standards Committees last week. Cerner CEO Neil Patterson was among those who testified at the hearing.

Patterson, in his testimony, said that "no single vendor" can meet the needs of every provider, and that the successful evolution of exchange hinges on "cross-vendor data liquidity."

"Cerner is, for its part, committed to an open healthcare ecosystem," Patterson said. "We are committed to enabling data liquidity for every product … to enabling our solutions to send and receive data in a universal manner … to putting these principals to work for every system in every venue of care."

While Patterson added that there's no reason that "plug-and-play data liquidity" can't be delivered at commodity prices, he didn't mention a potential deal with McKesson.

If completed, the deal could help Cerner compete with Verona, Wis.-based Epic Systems, notes Fluckinger. Epic, a dominant force in the industry, has been hesitant--to say the least--to open its proprietary platforms to other vendors. 

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center CIO John Halamka, who serves as vice chair on the HIT Standards Committee, said in a post to his Life as a Healthcare CIO blog in December that Meaningful Use Stage 2 provides the "technology, policy and incentives to make interoperability real."

"With certified technology, standards, and incentives to share data among providers and patients, 2013-2014 will usher in a new era of interoperability," Halamka said.

To learn more:
- read the SearchHealthIT article
- read Neil Patterson's testimony (.pdf)
- here's the EHR Intelligence piece
- check out John Halamka's blog post