Cerner vows to open EHR to third-party development

Cerner's headquarters are in Kansas City, Missouri
Cerner's headquarters are based in Kansas City, Missouri. (Cerner)

As Cerner prepares to massively grow its electronic health record system over the next several years, top executives are starting to acknowledge that the EHR vendor can't do it all in-house.

At a recent appearance at J.P. Morgan's Healthcare Conference, Cerner CEO Brent Shafer spoke broadly about the need for digital transformation in healthcare in the coming years.

And while Cerner has a history of keeping development like that close to the chest, Shafer argued that to do everything it wants to, the company needs to look outward. That means it needs to become the "partner of choice" for third-party development of healthcare innovation, he said.

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"We love to build things, we really love to build things. And we, frankly, prefer to do it ourselves. And it goes pretty deep in our background and it's part of our DNA," he said at the conference. However, "We recognize at this point there's so much to do, and so much opportunity out there to address, that we need to be very thoughtful about the things we build ourselves and how we prioritize our resources, and where we want to strategically partner to move forward faster."

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The company has already grown quite big, and it has bigger ambitions, Shafer said during the appearance. He noted that some things are harder to get off the ground in a bigger company, making it preferable to delegate them.

This is about "how we move innovation to scale quickly," he said. "In an organization this large, a great idea or a $50 million business that has the potential to solve portions of some of these challenges that are laid out there; it's often hard to move that through the whole mechanism, the operating mechanism of the company, and really get it to market and out there delivering and helping to address these opportunities in a quick time."