Health Care

Cerner conference will focus on health care information technology

“The consumer is going to become much more powerful in health care because they’re paying for the bill,” said Cerner president Zane Burke. “Three years ago, consumers paid 15 percent of health care costs. Today, they’re paying 25 percent. Three years from now, 38 percent will come out of the consumer’s pocket.”
“The consumer is going to become much more powerful in health care because they’re paying for the bill,” said Cerner president Zane Burke. “Three years ago, consumers paid 15 percent of health care costs. Today, they’re paying 25 percent. Three years from now, 38 percent will come out of the consumer’s pocket.” The Kansas City Star

Cerner Corp. president Zane Burke knows that topics such as “leveraging advanced analytics” and “optimizing medication management” don’t resonate with the population at large.

But as 14,000 people begin congregating in downtown Kansas City on Sunday at the annual Cerner Healthcare Conference, many of them are deeply entrenched in issues like that. And in Burke’s view, they matter to people who have no idea what those words mean.

“The consumer is going to become much more powerful in health care because they’re paying for the bill,” Burke said Friday. “Three years ago, consumers paid 15 percent of health care costs. Today, they’re paying 25 percent. Three years from now, 38 percent will come out of the consumer’s pocket.”

Cerner’s 10,000-plus employees in the Kansas City area and 21,000 worldwide are focused on what the company believes is the best hope for health care cost control — better health in the population.

“A lot of the work we’re doing is to move from the care side to the health side,” Burke said.

That means sharing massive amounts of aggregate patient health information to eliminate costly duplication of services, tracking what care works best and focusing on preventive rather than acute care, all the while emphasizing data security so individuals can be assured of privacy.

As Cerner co-founder Neal Patterson repeatedly says, the work is hard and complex.

Cerner and the majority of health information technology providers in the United States are cooperating to share patient information across hospital, clinic and physician networks. Burke calls it co-opetition. Eventually the companies want to put individuals’ health information in their own hands so they can monitor their own health and make cost-effective care decisions.

The jargon for that data co-opetition is interoperability — the ability to share medical records. It’s a goal fueling explosive growth in the health information technology industry and a goal of the CommonWell Health Alliance, an association with about 70 percent of acute health care companies in the United States as members.

“It takes time,” Burke said about interoperability. “We can’t light up a network instantaneously. But (the 70 percent) have agreed to a set of standards to connect to the person, should the person provide consent, that this information will be available to others.”

Burke said he is impatient about the time it takes, but “I feel good that providers are getting past competitive concerns about data flow. … From a patient perspective, it’s the right thing to do (and) I think it will become how health care operates in our country.”

Diane Stafford: 816-234-4359, @kcstarstafford

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