Where Is Cerner In All of This? (Or, Do We Really Need Another Epic Story?)

Posted on November 16, 2011 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

If the EMR vendor ratings issued by analyst firms are worth anything, it’s that they give us a chance to stop and challenge our assumptions. Is Soarian really an up-and-coming platform?  Do customers feel OK about Meditech, or are they bummed by struggling with v.6? And what’s all this I hear about Epic, anyway?

True to form, the latest Black Book Rankings offered another nut to chew on. For 2012, the Black Book folks have announced that Cerner took the prize as the number one most-favored EMR for inpatient hospital systems, chains and IDN software vendors, over NextGen, GE, Epic, Meditech and HMS. Cerner also ranked first among acute care EMR vendors for community hospitals with 101 to 250 beds (though GE was first among acute care EMR vendors when it came to large medical centers and hospitals under 250 beds).

Maybe you’re not surprised to hear this, but I was, which is a bit strange considering how much time I spend peering over inscrutable EMR market stats. Sure, I knew Cerner is a gigantic company, but my usual sources of information — e.g. my colleagues in the IT press, analysts and social media/Web gossip — aren’t buzzing about Cerner’s pluses and minuses.

On the other hand, Cerner’s numbers do the talking.  Sure, the company  does a lot more than just peddle EMRs, but for what it’s worth, the vendor had 2010 revenues of $2.1 billion and a seriously sweet gross margin of 80.7 percent, way ahead of its peers. In other words, Cerner’s doing extremely well. In fact, it’s clearly at the top of the EMR pile, with a presence in north of 2,000 hospitals.

I don’t have any stats to share on how Cerner’s performing for these hospitals, but as my colleague John Lynn noted in a related post, Cerner Ambulatory clients have secured $2.2+ million in combined Medicare and Medicaid Meaningful Use incentive funds from 16 states. More than $1.5 million of that $2.2+ million is in Medicare EHR incentives.

Yet another point worth considering, where Cerner’s concerned, is that it’s actually hard to find extended complaints about its EMR on the Web.  Even on HISTalk.com, which is always good if you want to hear the industry gossip, I couldn’t find any serious slams.

Now, do I think Cerner’s got a superior product? Sorry, folks, I’m just an editor in the peanut gallery, so I really wouldn’t be qualified to say. But if nothing else, Cerner’s platform doesn’t seem to be getting the press it deserves. Cerner may be a victim of the “say whatever you want but spell my name right” principle.

Consider Epic. If you’re like me, you may have seen dozens or hundreds of comments online ripping Epic’s attitude, pricing and product in the last year or two.  But what does all that negative commentary do? It simply brings ripples of publicity to the Wisconsin giant, and in a perverse way, actually boosts its reputation. After all, even if you’re reading negative comments about Epic, you’re reading about tons of live installs, right?  That can actually work in its favor.

Bottom line, thanks to Black Book for reminding me that Cerner may be getting less buzz simply by getting the job done.