Patients in health systems that use the Cerner EHR can now track and share specific health metrics with their healthcare providers

In what may be first steps toward becoming a full-service digital healthcare platform, Health information technology (HIT) developer Cerner (NASDAQ:CERN) is partnering with Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) to bring cloud-based health tracking services to its EHR customers. People who use Amazon’s Halo service—which includes a wristband device and smartphone app to monitor specific health metrics—can now import that data directly into Cerner electronic health record (EHR) systems for sharing with healthcare providers.

This may turn out to be a pioneering effort by one of the nation’s major providers of EHR systems to pull in useful health data from a variety of non-traditional sources and incorporate them into a patient’s electronic health record. Cerner has a major market share of EHR systems (exceeded only by Epic) and has a laboratory information system (LIS) that is used by many clinical laboratories.

For this fact alone, strategic planners at medical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups should follow this development. That is particularly true of those labs operated by hospitals and health systems that decide to add this new feature to their existing Cerner EHR. If data is flowing into the EHR from patients’ Amazon Halo service, for example, it is not a big leap to imagine that clinical lab test data from the patients’ EHRs might later flow back to the Halo service where it would be instantly accessible to those patients.

This collaboration, according to a Cerner press release, “allows consumers to easily connect vital health and well-being information with their broader healthcare teams. … Historically this type of data has been siloed or difficult to obtain. Wearable technology, such as the Amazon Halo, can help achieve greater interoperability across healthcare when integrated directly into a patient’s electronic health record (EHR).”

Amazon Halo Band and APP
Cerner’s integration of the Amazon Halo Band and smartphone app (above) into its electronic health record (EHR) system allows users to share collected healthcare metrics with doctors in health systems that use the Cerner EHR. How long will it be before clinical laboratories that use Cerner’s laboratory information systems (LIS) will be able to incorporate similar metrics into their LIS as well? (Photo copyright: Amazon.)

Using Artificial Intelligence to Empower Healthcare Consumers

The Halo wristband, along with its accompanying smartphone app, “combines a suite of AI-powered health features that provide actionable insights into overall wellness …  [and] uses multiple advanced sensors to provide the highly accurate information necessary to power Halo,” an Amazon press release states.

Data collected by Amazon Halo that are now importable into Cerner EHRs, according to the press release, include:

  • Activity: Informed by American Heart Association physical activity guidelines and the latest medical research, Amazon Halo awards points based on the intensity and duration of movement, not just the number of steps taken.
  • Sleep: Amazon Halo uses motion, heart rate, and temperature to measure time asleep and time awake; time spent in the various phases of sleep including deep, light, and REM; and skin temperature while sleeping.
  • Body: Amazon Halo lets customers measure their body fat percentage from the comfort and privacy of their own home, making this important information easily accessible.
  • Tone: This feature uses machine learning to analyze energy and positivity in a customer’s voice so they can better understand how they may sound to others, helping improve their communication and relationships.
  • Labs: Amazon Halo Labs are science-backed challenges, experiments, and workouts that allow customers to discover what works best for them specifically, so they can build healthier habits.

Leveraging Patient Generated Health Data

In the Cerner press release, David Bradshaw, Senior Vice President of Consumer and Employer Solutions at Cerner, said, “The healthcare industry is undergoing a digital revolution, where physicians are increasingly looking to leverage patient-generated health data to help keep them healthier and out of the doctor’s office. 

“Our work with Amazon Halo,” he continued, “highlights the importance of using artificial intelligence and other leading-edge technologies to accelerate healthcare innovation and improve health outcomes. Cerner is focused on continuing to lead a wave of breakthrough innovation, and this integration with Amazon Halo is a step toward this goal.” 

The first healthcare provider to offer the Amazon Halo service to its Cerner EHR users is Sharp HealthCare of San Diego. Some Sharp Health Plan members will participate in wellness programs and eventually have the option to link their Sharp and Halo data directly into the healthcare system’s Cerner EHR.

Sharp HealthCare includes 2,600 physicians, four acute care facilities, and three specialty hospitals.

“Technology is revolutionizing the way we care for patients and how consumers care for themselves, and at Sharp we strive to embrace innovative ways to leverage leading technology to engage consumers in managing their health,” said Michael Reagin, SVP and Chief Information and Innovation Officer at Sharp HealthCare, in the Cerner press release.

“With more relevant information at their fingertips, our populations will be empowered to make more informed decisions about the health and well-being of themselves and the communities they serve,” he added. “We are pleased to work with Cerner and Amazon Halo to offer our members, patients, and clinicians an opportunity to have a more connected health record.”

Cerner Expanding to Include Population Health and Precision Medicine

Cerner may be evolving toward a cloud-based platform that pulls in data from hospital and doctors’ office EHRs—as well as data gather by wearable devices—and uses that information for population health and precision medicine analysis to guide healthcare providers.

Last year, Cerner announced a collaboration with the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud platform, reportedly in an effort to pivot beyond its traditional health records business.

“Moving forward, I think Cerner will look more like a health platform company and less like an EHR company,” Dan Devers, SVP, Cloud Strategy, and Chief IP Officer at Cerner, told Fierce Healthcare. “As you play out the trend in healthcare, I see Cerner very much operating at the health network level—so beyond the enterprise of a single health system. Given the power of the cloud and the work we’re doing, I see Cerner having much more relevance into broader networks and providing nationwide capabilities.”

Cerner is aiming to provide consumers with more power regarding their own healthcare by equipping them with easy, fast, and efficient methods to access their personal information and provide healthcare professionals with useful data about individual patients.

Given the value and importance of clinical laboratory data, innovative lab managers should strive to be aware of collaborations like the one between Cerner and Amazon Halo. Remaining alert for opportunities to participate in these types of arrangements could provide labs with added revenue streams and inventive ways to offer customers value-added services. 

—JP Schlingman

Related Information:

Introducing Amazon Halo and Amazon Halo Band—A New Service that Helps Customers Improve Their Health and Wellness

Cerner Teams with Amazon to Help Consumers Improve Their Health and Wellness

Amazon Cloud Partnership is Driving Cerner’s Shift to become Digital Platform Company

Cerner Collaborates with Amazon Web Services on Cloud Innovation, Machine Learning