Microsoft announced a new strategic alliance with Epic Systems that will bring providers using Epic an integrated Teams experience within their electronic health record (EHR) clinical workflows. In a Forrester-HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) April-May survey of health system IT workers, respondents said that poor integration between virtual visit solutions and EHR workflows was the most pressing technology issue they were facing during the pandemic (see figure). This partnership aims to resolve that issue for many Epic customers.

Microsoft has also announced that Teams will now include an integrated instance of Nuance DAX, an automation tool that converts the doctor-patient conversations that are generated during these virtual visits into appropriately formatted encounter notes on behalf of the clinician.

Public cloud providers, like Microsoft, are establishing health IT vendor alliances as the race to win the enterprise healthcare market intensifies.

Health systems need to fully consider the relationship their EHR vendors have with public cloud providers before making their own partnership decisions.

Emerging alliances between EHR vendors and public cloud providers will influence the digital transformation partnership decisions that health systems make because:

  • Epic is doubling down on integration with Microsoft, distancing itself from Google. Healthcare organizations tell us that integrating predictive insights into clinical workflow is the leading barrier to AI adoption. Azure’s healthcare clients have long reported that they see value in the deep integration between Azure AI and Microsoft’s HIPAA-compliant Teams solution, which is used by healthcare clients to push AI-generated clinical alerts out to frontline providers. Epic is establishing integrations with Microsoft Teams that directly resolves this insight-delivery pain point. In contrast, earlier this year, Epic sent letters to all customers declaring that the company would no longer pursue integrationwith Google. The decision followed an announcement from the Office for Civil Rights reporting that Google Cloud Platform was being investigated for potential data privacy missteps.
  • Cerner is building new patient engagement channels with Amazon. Amazon is working to create new opportunities for Cerner clients following a 2019 partnership between the two firmsThe first concrete value to Cerner clients from this partnership is direct integration between Cerner EHR and Amazon’s new wearable, Halo. Today, clinicians see limited value in reviewing wearables data, but as these devices increase in maturity, that perspective could change.
  • Meditech is all in on Google as its meditech-as-a-service provider. Meditech announced a strategic partnership with Google Cloud in 2019, focused on bringing a software-as-a-service version of its EHR to market. This partnership promises to bring additional value to Meditech clients over time, including embedded failover and disaster recovery services for clients running Meditech on-premises.

In the last year, public cloud providers have unveiled an impressive number of digital transformation partnerships with healthcare organizations. Mayo Clinic signed a multiyear partnership with Google Cloud, as did Ascension. Providence’s St. Joseph Health and Johns Hopkins both signed with Microsoft Azure. As this market continues to accelerate, health systems need to step back and evaluate these emerging alliances and how they can be leveraged to accelerate their own digital transformation.