Coming in at number five in this year’s HCI 100 , Siemens Healthcare is clearly a powerhouse among the industry’s vendors. What’s more, the organization is one of only two vendors that offer core clinical functionality to hospitals, such as EMR and CPOE, while also playing heavily in the PACS, RIS and modality space (the other being GE Healthcare IT ). Recently, HCI Editor-in-Chief Anthony Guerra had a chance to chat with CEO Janet Dillione about where the company stands – and is going – in the industry’s HITECH-fueled environment.
GUERRA: What are some of the main projects Siemens is working on?
DILLIONE: Obviously, the number one topic right now is ARRA, but with or without ARRA, we would have been very, very busy anyway because both on the clinical and financial side we’re rolling out very large releases to our customers. We also have a product we don’t talk much about that we roll out in the rest of the world. It has a very low TCO (total cost of ownership) that we take to the emerging market, which is also a focus for us. We’re gearing up to enter China and other markets with that; we’re already live with that product line in South Africa and Egypt and Turkey.
As I like to tell people, a lot of times I think we are, as you would imagine, very judgmental and tough on ourselves. Clearly, Soarian has been harder than we expected. It’s taking longer and costing more. When you take a closer look though, and look at who has launched new product lines in the last 10 years, you see that we’ve not done it once, we’ve done it twice. When I need a moment of sanity I remind myself of that and understand why this is so hard.
GUERRA: How would you describe the way you’re bringing customers on to Soarian? Are you being aggressive? Are you gently nudging them along, or can they stay on Invision as long as they want?
DILLIONE: Obviously, they can stay. Invision will be around a very, very long time. We actually took a look at it years ago and it almost gets silly when you look at how much professional services and resources it would take to move such a large customer base (onto Soarian) – the numbers are stunning. So it will be a customer choice issue.
However, what we are doing with ARRA is each and every customer of ours is getting an ARRA roadmap. We’re going in and doing an assessment of their current EHR status, where are they: red, green, yellow and, given that, what do they must do to make sure they’re in a position for meaningful use.
Some of the customers – for us and I’m sure other vendors – will be fine no matter how meaningful use is defined. But for the other customers, you then start to have a discussion about the clinical investment you need to make, do you want to continue to make it with Invision or is it time for you to transition to Soarian? And that usually becomes somewhat self-evident as you start to do that EHR assessment and then see the gaps that they’re looking to fill.
GUERRA: Are you trying that to make the point that it’s easier to get there with Soarian?
DILLIONE: No. I don’t know that it’s easier because it’s going to depend on where a customer is in terms of their own implementation status. Again, we have many Invision customers that will get meaningful use immediately. I think, certainly, the investments in Soarian are ones that a customer can make and make once, and it’s going to last them a very long time because Soarian is a newer product line. I mean there are certainly attributes in Soarian of usability, of openness, of the Web technology that are clear advantages when you’re trying to penetrate a clinical workplace and get your clinicians excited.
GUERRA: I read over the story David Raths did recently, and I was also looking at the KLAS midterm report and it seems you’ve got quite a bit more customers on Soarian Clinicals than on Soarian Financials. Does that mean you’re getting more adoption on the clinical side and is that because people don’t like to tamper with their revenue cycle?
DILLIONE: All of your above statements are true. I actually spent a good portion of my career on the revenue cycle side of healthcare and got into the financial side a few years ago. One of the interesting things about financials is that the decision making is a little bit more autocratic, because usually it’s a straight shot up through the CFO. Your supposition is correct; cash is king. Cash is a tremendously important asset right now. We find folks being extremely risk averse because the credit markets are so tight. So, cash is phenomenally important.