SAP and Cerner have joined forces to create a new electronic health record platform for hospitals outside the U.S.

“We decided to create next-gen clinical EHR systems jointly for the rest of the world,” said Werner Eberhardt, MD, Global Head of SAP Health during an interview ahead of the announcement at the HLTH conference in Las Vegas.

Wait. With arguably too many EHRs already on the market, why build a new one for the rest of the world instead of just selling Cerner’s existing tools in Europe?

The regulatory environment is different. Take GDPR, for instance. The General Data Privacy Regulation that kicks in on May 25, is a big challenge for hospitals that Eberhardt said will accelerate the switch to cloud services.

It also doesn’t hurt that InterSystems and Epic have the most customers in Europe, according to KLAS, which ranked Cerner third on the continent, at least as of 2016 when it last conducted the research. 

And the degree of digitalization among hospitals around the world is lagging behind the U.S. because meaningful use created a massive opportunity for vendors here that resulted in expensive products, Eberhardt said, adding that they are frequently prohibitively pricey in markets outside the U.S.

“The vast majority of hospitals in Europe cannot afford to buy Cerner or Epic at scale,” Eberhardt added. “That’s why we are making this a cloud solution.”

Basing it on the cloud model also enables the companies to use technologies including machine learning, internet of things and analytics to play a role in the hospital of the future.  

“We are enabling the intelligent hospital by combining patient experience, outcomes, data-driven innovations, empowered workforce capabilities,” Eberhardt said.

SAP and Cerner will also handle privacy and security as well as regulatory changes by updating the code in local datacenters rather than customers having to do that on-premise. 

“One of the key differentiators is that we do not pull all the data together, we know many organizations have restrictions with respect to where the data can sit,” Eberhardt said. “Data can stay local even within a specific provider organization. We have local datacenters globally.”

The SAP-Cerner platform is independent of infrastructure so it can run on Amazon Web Services, Google, Microsoft Azure or others, though it will run on SAP’s cloud to start with.

SAP and Cerner will launch the first beta customers later this year and the EHR will be generally available in 2019. Cerner, of course, will continue to offer Millennium in the U.S.

“If this all goes well,” Eberhardt said, “who know knows where this might take us next?” 

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