What's next for Epic, Cerner

Epic and Cerner make up more than half of the U.S. hospital EHR market, but they are leaning into different strategies for growth.

Epic ended 2021 as the market leader, with nearly 33 percent of the hospital market, according to healthcare IT researchers KLAS. Epic added 74 hospitals to its system last year and continues to sign new high-profile customers. In late May, Naples, Fla.-based NCH Healthcare System said it spent $65 million to transition its Cerner EHR to Epic so patients could more easily share records between other large health systems across the country.

Hospitals have traditionally been Epic's main customer, but last September the company announced Walmart will deploy Epic EHR at its health centers this year. Epic agreed to support all Walmart Health's lines of business so patients will have a unified health record across its care settings and locations.

Epic is also leaning into Cosmos, its deidentified patient data and research platform. Cosmos launched in 2017 and now has data from 140 million patients, including 6.1 million cancer patients. The company gathers the data from 960 hospitals and more than 20,000 clinics using its EHR. Cosmos has data on 4.7 billion patient visits from a diverse patient population.

During the pandmeic, Epic launched a journal where customers could publish findings based on data collected through its EHRs. The most recent findings include studies on breakthrough COVID-19 cases, delayed cancer screenings during the pandemic and firearms injuries.

Access to the large Epic datasets, which include many of the largest hospitals and health systems across the U.S., is a value proposition for the company and could spark additional partnerships.

Cerner, on the other hand, is leaning into clinical expertise on the team to develop a more clinician-focused product. Cerner held 24.4 percent of the hospital market at the end of 2021 and added five hospitals last year. The company also named a new CEO, David Feinberg, MD, former Google Health executive and CEO of Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger.

Dr. Feinberg said the company is focused on modernizing the EHR platform and embarked on a cultural shift from being a technology-driven company to becoming more clinically driven. The company aims to launch a product focused on interoperability, Seamless Exchange, later this year and focus on equitable technology adoption.

"This year, we hired Cerner's first chief health officer," Dr. Feinberg said at the Becker's 12th Annual Meeting in April. "We have more than 1,000 doctors and nurses at Cerner. Their job now is to be more clinical and to meet with customers to identify problems we need to take action on and fix."

Cerner reported $206.1 million in net earnings for the first quarter of the year, up 20 percent from the same period last year, despite continued high-profile challenges rolling out its EHR with the Veterans Affairs Department as part of a $16.1 billion partnership.

Cerner is also in the process of being acquired by Oracle in a $28 billion deal, which will lead the company down a new growth path with access to more resources. The transaction is expected to close later this year, and Cerner will become a dedicated industry business unit within Oracle. Oracle also plans to make its hands-free voice assistant the primary interface in Cerner clinical systems.

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