JPM21: Cerner wants to build a $1B data business as it expands reach into pharma market

Cerner's headquarters are in Kansas City, Missouri
Cerner wants to play a "defining role in transforming the speed and cost of clinical trials" while building a billion-dollar data business, executives said. (Cerner)

Building on its acquisition of clinical research company Kantar Health, health IT giant Cerner is setting its sights on building a $1 billion data business for the healthcare and life sciences industries.

Cerner announced plans in December to acquire the health division of Kantar Group, which provides data, analytics and research to the life sciences industry, for $375 million.

The company is looking to create a leading data insights and clinical research platform and wants to harness data to improve the safety, efficiency and efficacy of clinical research across life sciences, pharmaceuticals and healthcare at large.

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Data analytics and research have been a strong focus for Cerner in the past 18 months, said Don Trigg, president of Cerner, during a presentation Wednesday at the annual J.P. Morgan healthcare conference. The conference was held virtually.

Cerner launched its Learning Health Network in 2019 to offer member health systems free access to a network of standardized, de-identified data and resources to support research efforts. Former Optum and Lumeris executive Art Glasgow also joined the company two years ago to drive the strategy forward, Trigg said.

In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company exceeded its 2020 goal by adding 55 members to the Learning Health Network, and those organizations represent almost 100 million patients and 500 million clinical encounters.

RELATED: Shafer says COVID-19 pandemic has driven 'burst of innovation' at Cerner

"With did some things before COVID with partnership strategies to engage with life sciences and pharma organizations and prove out the value of the Learning Health Network," Trigg said.

Through the acquisition of Kantar Health, Cerner will offer its Learning Health Network clients direct engagement with the life sciences industry for funded research studies, the company said.

"We think this set us up well before COVID, during COVID, and looking out after COVID to play a defining role in transforming the speed and cost of clinical trials and building a billion-dollar data business," he said.

With the acquisition, Kantar Health brings differentiated real-world data assets, strong relationships with the world’s leading life science companies and medical affairs expertise.

"We’re excited about this acquisition. We think it’s on strategy in terms of representing a large and mega trend around real-world evidence, which is a large and growing addressable market with 20%-plus growth," Trigg said. "It's the kind of opportunities we’re looking for with EMR-agnostic, high growth, and high margin businesses in this space."

Electronic health record (EHR) companies are expanding their capabilities into real-world data and analytics as they branch out from their traditional, core EHR businesses. Cerner competitor Allscripts is seeing strong growth in its Veradigm business, which offers solutions targeted at both life science companies and payers. 

In 2018, Veradigm partnered with NextGen Healthcare to enable data exchange between providers and health plans, insurance companies, laboratories and research organizations. The agreement created one of the largest EHR data networks in the world, with approximately 150 million unique patient records to provide "advanced analytic solutions and insights focused on improving care quality and patient outcomes," the company said.

The Veradigm business also collaborated with Komodo Health to create the largest linked data set of EHR and claims data containing a complete longitudinal view of nearly 50 million identified patients for life sciences research.

RELATED: Cerner inks $375M acquisition of Kantar Health to expand clinical research platform

Real-world evidence is disrupting traditional clinical trials, and the COVID-19 regulatory response is accelerating this shift, according to Cerner. The company's large provider base and healthcare data expertise offer the opportunity to re-imagine this market, Trigg said.

"We bring some intriguing points of differentiation" to the market, Trigg said Wednesday, noting that one-third of U.S. hospitals are using its Millennium EHR and related health IT systems

"We have a high density of community hospitals and health systems that don’t traditionally have an opportunity to participate in the clinical trial activity. And, we have multiple decades of experience dealing with the complexities of healthcare data."

In response to the pandemic, Cerner partnered with Amazon Web Services to provide healthcare researchers with free access to COVID-19 patient data to support epidemiological studies, clinical trials and medical treatments.

"We're seeing some best-in-class research around COVID-19 that we think proves out the power of the clinical data and proves out the after-COVID opportunity for this data asset," Trigg said.