The relationship between Cerner and Truman Medical Centers (TMC) has been ongoing for over two decades. In October 2015, the relationship deepened as Cerner and TMC announced a new, strategic alliance dedicated to the local and global transformation of health care. The partnership – later named the KC one Health Innovation Alliance – meant that Julie Hull, Vice President of Cerner and Vice President of Operations for KC one, and Mitzi Cardenas, Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy and Information Officer at TMC, would be inexorably tied to one another as they dedicated their energy to revolutionary strategies in health IT.
On Wednesday, January 25, at the Central Exchange in downtown Kansas City during a WiSTEMM-organized luncheon, these two leaders delivered a presentation on the achievements of and plans for the KC one Health Innovation Alliance. Key insights gleaned from this event include progress on pharmacy clinical monitoring, patient safety and population health strategies.
Rethinking supplier-client relations with a living laboratory
The announcement of the KC one Health Innovation Alliance was momentous for two top industry players, but for Hull and Cardenas, the partnership was also necessary.
"My job today is to work with Truman Medical Centers to put all the things Cerner has been building into action," Hull said. "We have over 24,000 associates worldwide, and every day, we're thinking about improving health care – but the things we do at Cerner Corporation do not matter until they meet the provider, because it's the provider who meets the patient."
For the partnership to work and have impact, Cerner and TMC opted for a "living laboratory" approach. Since 2015, Cerner has placed associates at TMC facilities as dual employees – and a few TMC employees have likewise been absorbed into Cerner Corporation. This exchange of associates means there is an immediate exchange of knowledge, as Cerner gains instant feedback about the success and opportunities for improvement of its solutions. Likewise, TMC employees are able to understand how Cerner solutions contribute to the success of their organization from the ground up.
"The big question is: How do we make sure that we're designing for the most common denominator?" Hull explained. "Be predictive, be proactive, and meet people where they're at. That's why this Living Lab concept is exciting – because at the end of the day, we all work for the patient."
Advancements in Pharmacy Clinical Monitoring
"Pharmacy Clinical Monitoring was one of our early projects," Hull said. "We brought in some folks to work with the pharmacy group at Truman and to say, 'Let's make sure you're using the system to the best of its ability.' We put things into automation that had previously only been on paper. We changed the manifestation of the data."
The transition from monitoring high-risk patients on paper to electronic devices, Hull said, was a hallmark of progress.
"A lot of things were happening behind the scenes," Hull said, "but what really matters is that by enabling pharmacists to collaborate electronically, more time can be spent on patient care. It's about using data in action. We can immediately start patients on the right dose. We can turn things around quickly. The pharmacy staff at TMC is now happier because they can do more at the bedside and spend less time going through paper."
While barcoding technology has been utilized in health care institutions such as TMC for some time, the opportunity to make the practice more efficient for providers was a key focus of the KC one Health Innovation Alliance. Patient Safety is Elemental (PSE) was a patient-centered initiative developed with KC one Health Innovation Alliance to support the nursing practice by barcoding blood, milk and medications.
"At Truman, 75 percent of our patients have one or more chronic conditions," Cardenas said, "so if you get the wrong blood product to the wrong patient, that's an issue. By barcoding the medication and barcoding the patient with a wristband, the nurse can be confident that he or she will not make a mistake."
After the KC one Health Innovation Alliance, barcoded medication administration was updated. The new technology that Cerner has developed utilizes specialized tethered bar-code scanning on workstations on wheels (WoWs) and MC-40 smart phones, enabling nurse and physician team to communicate quickly and provide ever more efficient patient care.
"What's cool about the work we're coming out with now versus ten years ago is that people are saying, 'I want to be able to do more with this,' rather than, 'Please don't make me use this,'" Hull said. "Providers are ready for new technology."
KC one has its eye on population health management
Population health management is a growing trend in the health IT industry, and both Hull and Cardenas alluded to a progressive focus on it.
"We're working on a lot of things," Cardenas said. "Our goal is to take care of people before they get sick and before they come into the hospital. We're working to keep people out of the hospital, which sounds counterintuitive from a business perspective, but that's part of our KC one brand. We all live and work in Kansas City, Missouri, and even though Cerner is global, this partnership is about working to make our population healthier."
Successful partnerships are transparent partnerships
TMC became a Cerner client in 1992. Now, 27 years later, the supplier-client relationship has grown in ways that leaders at both organizations likely did not anticipate. The success of the relationship, which ultimately gave rise to the KC one Health Innovation Alliance, was based on transparency and trust.
"The relationship between Truman and Cerner started to evolve when both of us agreed to be very transparent with one another," Cardenas said. "We make mistakes and they make mistakes, but the goal is to try and figure out how to solve issues. For me, having a partnership with our vendor is really important, because there will be times when things don't go right, and you have to be able to talk about it."
While Cerner's long-term relationship with Truman gave KC one Health Innovation Alliance a jumping-off point, Hull maintained that the partnership is about maintaining open lines of dialogue.
"At the end of the day, it's just about talking," Hull said. "We've established a relationship, and we trusted each other and our organizations trusted us – it's a 'we' thing. It's about having a conversation, being transparent and creating trust. If you don't take time to invest in a relationship, it's not going to be there – it just becomes a transaction. With KC one, we're all committed to it."