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Leveraging EHR Vendor Partnerships for Population Health

"We have a large uninsured population, so it's extremely important for us to make sure that we are lowering cost and focused on not only the care of those individuals but also getting them to a higher state of wellness."

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

- Collaboration is the name of the game for healthcare organizations and providers as they prepare for the future of patient care. Neither population health management nor value-based care is possible without clinicians, patients, and other stakeholders having timely access to pertinent information and the tools with which to act upon it.

Truman Medical Centers will expand its EHR vendor relationship with Cerner

While health IT is commonly referred to as tools for supporting clinical end-users, its role in population health management and value-based care is likely to be more central in light of the many strategic relationships many successful healthcare organizations are forming to keep pace with changes in the healthcare industry.

Truman Medical Centers (TMC) in Kansas City has followed the examples set by the District of Columbia's Bear Institute, the University of Missouri's Tiger Institute, and Florida's NCH Healthcare System in taking its relationship with EHR vendor Cerner Corporation to the next level for the purposes of staying on the cutting edge of health IT use and innovation.

"Truman has always been focused on technology as a strategic asset. This relationship with a trusted partner, as with Cerner, is not a vendor-client one — it's a strategic partnership," Senior Vice President of Strategy, Business Development and Technology/CIO Mitzi Cardenas tells EHRIntelligence.com.

TMC has received numerous recognitions for its health IT use. Not only was it recognized by HIMSS Analytics as a Stage 7 ambulatory EHR user, but TMC also won the Davies Enterprise Award in 2014 for its innovative use of EHR technology in improving clinical quality, patient outcomes, and return on investment.

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As such, TMC brings plenty of expertise to its expanded relationship with the Kansas City-based EHR company as well as unique opportunities for leveraging health IT to the benefit of individuals in Missouri's largest city.

"Stage 7 really speaks to adoption and we have a committed and well-adopted clinical team that uses the tools and looks forward to continuing to advance our use of technology," Cardenas maintains. "They see the value of it. I can't speak for Cerner, but the interest is there because of how we use it, how we want to use it, and the fact that we have achieved those levels of status."

Formalizing the informal

According to Cardenas, the official TMC-Cerner partnership follows years of an informal one. In many ways, it is the same relationship only formalized.

"This is formalizing somewhat of an informal relationship that we have had," she reveals. "We're in close proximity in Kansas City. We have been a Cerner client since 1992. We do a lot of things together — their folks volunteer at Truman and we also do informal development together."

Throughout more than 20 years as a Cerner shop, TMC has matured into a "living lab" where the provider and vendor have collaborated to identify opportunities for improving the efficiency of care in an established setting. The expanded relationship simply builds on this.

"We will get access to things earlier in development, and there are some things we will work to develop together that we probably haven't even thought about yet," Cardenas explains. "We have a large uninsured population, so it's extremely important for us to make sure that we are lowering cost and focused on not only the care of those individuals but also getting them to a higher state of wellness."

Improving the health of populations

TMC and Cerner have yet to identify the focus of its pilot projects, but the ultimate aim is already clear — to improve the population health of Kansas City residents and produce tools that can replicate these improvements in other areas of the country.

"Some of the Cerner tools that exist now and hopefully those we can help develop with them in the future will certainly do that," Cardenas adds.

The timing of the expanded partnership also serves an important purpose for TMC. The organization has its sights set on expanding its reach beyond Kansas City and increase patient access to care.        

"We're focused on spreading primary care like a lot of others out to different settings — retail and in the community. All the things we're looking at doing from a strategic standpoint are going to be augmented by what we can do with Cerner in terms of technology," says Cardenas.

For early EHR adopters and high-performing health IT users, choosing the right EHR vendor partner is not tied to one particular product but what the relationship based on learning and reciprocity can yield in the long run.



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