Allscripts CEO Glen Tullman finished this article early Monday morning to share his Day One thoughts on the newly merged Allscripts and Misys Healthcare with the readers of HIStalk. Completion of the merger was announced this morning. Glen will participate in a live chat on HIStalk Wednesday evening at 7:00 Eastern.
Software Silos – The End of the Beginning
By Glen Tullman, Chief Executive Officer, AllscriptsMisys
This morning we announced that the merger of Allscripts and Misys Healthcare has been finalized, creating a new company with a client base of nearly one out of every three physicians and one of every five hospitals, as well as thousands of post-acute organizations. Clearly, this is a great opportunity for the company and for our shareholders.
However, I look at it in a very different way. I see this merger, not only as an opportunity, but as a responsibility as well. We simply must use our new size/scale, our set of solutions and our reach to radically accelerate the movement to create a truly interconnected healthcare system in order to eliminate errors, improve quality and better manage cost.
But we believe this must be a mandate not just for Allscripts, but for all vendors. While Allscripts and others provide applications that help address the issues I outlined above, the core problem is that healthcare is not connected – functionally, financially or technically. That can’t continue and we collectively have the tools to ensure it doesn’t.
Consider this a call to action to eliminate what I call “software silos.” Now is the time to come together as an industry to create standards, to ensure our systems are actual solutions, and that what we provide is the fix, not the problem.
What do I mean by “software silos?” Simply stated, vendors today often provide stand-alone applications. They are not connected to other systems or to information that is vital to our end users – the equivalent of a computer that’s not connected to the Internet.
Yet connecting to information is the very essence of what we are being asked to do, because healthcare is at its roots an “information business.” Without just the right information at the right place and the right time, providers can’t improve the health of their patients or their bottom line.
Today we have taken a significant step in this direction by bringing together two of the major players in the market. In doing so, we have already spurred additional consolidation. And more is coming.
But it will take more than consolidation. As an industry, we have to begin to move with urgency, because this is not a “problem” we are trying to solve – it’s a crisis. The stakes are too great to wait – 98,000 deaths per year from medical errors, clinical outcomes that are given a “D” on every report card relative to other industrialized nations, and $700 billion wasted every year (ironically, the same amount of the recent Wall Street bailout).
Given what’s at stake, it’s disappointing that there are companies in our market who, when it comes to interoperability, can’t spare the time to help find a solution or lend a word of support to the many efforts that are in motion right now between many of us. In fact, it’s worse than that. For literally everything that is done, they undermine it, preferring to use a “no, because” approach versus a “yes, if.” Their attitude shows a fundamental lack of leadership. Simply stated, walls between systems create chaos for patients and providers. We can’t allow this to continue.
A few years ago, I had an experience that I wouldn’t wish on any parent. While I was running another software company, I was in the operating room with my son Sam. As he was being put under, he looked up at a monitor and said “Hey Dad, isn’t that your company?” When I looked up, I saw an older version of our software and knew that we could do, and had done, better.
At that moment I realized that what flows through our systems is not bits and bytes, but human lives. The lives of our families and of our friends.
When Allscripts partnered with Dell, Microsoft, Google, Fujitsu and a number of other organizations to launch the National ePrescribing Patient Safety Initiative to provide electronic prescribing to every physician in the country for free, everyone thought I was a little bit crazy … including our Board of Directors, who reminded me we were in the business of selling software. But I wasn’t crazy (OK, maybe a little bit) – I was actually still, in a sense, in that operating room with Sam with a promise I made that day, which has turned into an obligation to get life saving technology into the hands of healthcare providers.
And that’s exactly why many of us entered healthcare to begin with and why we wake up every day with the passion to make a difference. But we can only deliver on that promise if we connect our efforts.
I am proud of the work both Allscripts and Misys have done through the years to move beyond software silos. We’ve played an active leadership role in developing standards, demonstrating interoperability in live settings with other Electronic Health Records (IHE Connecthathon, HIMSS Interoperability Showcase, etc.) and connecting patients to a variety of personal health record platforms including Microsoft HealthVault, Google Health and Medem. And, on Day One of our merger, our solutions will connect to others in our portfolio, from Emergency Department physicians who can view a patient’s ambulatory health record to hospital care managers who can share records with home care agencies. We’ll focus on leveraging our footprint to drive connectivity across the care continuum from ambulatory to acute and post-acute.
And just as we’re investing our resources in expanding across all settings and enhancing the interoperability of our solutions, it should be the commitment of every CEO in every healthcare IT company to dedicate the time (not just of their people, but their own personal time) and resources necessary to make their solutions fully interoperable.
We all need to recognize that our industry – and the healthcare providers we serve – is at an inflection point. We’ve succeeded in delivering solutions that help hundreds of thousands of providers deliver safer, more effective and more efficient care. But we’ve also helped to perpetuate the information silos that keep our healthcare system from achieving true connectivity and true health.
To paraphrase Winston Churchill, this is ‘the end of the beginning.’ And now the real fun begins …
We can learn from cell phones and computers, two other technology revolutions that changed our lives, and understand that the basic software and technology are a start, but they are just the first step. The real magic comes when you connect – just as cell phones of different manufacturers and carriers are connected. It seems basic, but it’s exactly what we need to do for healthcare. Not at some point in the future, but right now.
When our industry decides to make interoperability a priority, then we can begin to claim that we are truly delivering on the promise of healthcare information technology. With our solutions connected not only across all care settings but across all vendor platforms, we will deliver higher quality, lower cost patient care through an interoperable system that enables all providers everywhere to Connect to Health. The health of patients, of providers and of healthcare is on the line. The beginning has ended and we all now have a responsibility to deliver.
That’s our goal and that’s why Allscripts and Misys came together. Personally, I can’t imagine a better outcome.