Cerner/Bridge merger dominates news at ASHP

July 25, 2005

Acquisitions, integration, and point-of-care strategies were dominant technology themes at the 2005 ASHP Summer Meeting in Boston in June. Topping the headlines was Cerner Corp.'s acquisition of Bridge Medical Inc. The $11 million deal will substantially expand Cerner's presence in the bar-code market at a time when pressure from regulatory agencies is driving hospitals to reduce medication errors.

Acquisitions, integration, and point-of-care strategies were dominant technology themes at the 2005 ASHP Summer Meeting in Boston in June. Topping the headlines was Cerner Corp.'s acquisition of Bridge Medical Inc. The $11 million deal will substantially expand Cerner's presence in the bar-code market at a time when pressure from regulatory agencies is driving hospitals to reduce medication errors.

Industry experts note that the Cerner/Bridge alliance could have far-reaching consequences in the way health systems approach their technology decisions. For instance, instead of purchasing best-of-breed or stand-alone products, more and more hospitals may begin to consider an integrated systems solution in which a single vendor provides a comprehensive hospital information system that includes bar-coding, pharmacy, and lab systems. Mark Neuenschwander, a Bellevue, Wash.-based technology analyst, said that the case could be made for both best-of-breed and integrated strategies.

According to Neuenschwander, an integrated approach offers, among other things, ease of access to more data, including pharmacy, nursing, lab, and radiology. On the other hand, best-of-breed vendors may offer better service and support as they can devote all their resources to a single application. Furthermore, noted Neuenschwander, best-of-breed company products tend to mature more rapidly than their integrated competitor products. Whatever strategies hospitals choose, Neuenschwander emphasized the importance of evaluating each system carefully.

Omnicell Inc. added bar-coding technology to its OmniLinkRx physician order management system. Omnicell officials said the enhancement to OmniLinkRx would increase the overall efficiency of the pharmacy by reducing unnecessary keystrokes. Richard Caldwell, senior pharmacy product manager for Omnicell, said the system would read a bar code that will associate a physician prescription order with a patient. He added that the methodology for patient association would provide an additional mechanism to quickly complete patient association and improve the management and retrieval of physician orders.

In an alliance that could potentially provide pharmacy services to more than 650 healthcare institutions, Healthprolink Inc. and Pharmacy OneSource have joined forces to provide what company executives see as a fully integrated world-class software solution specific to the practice of pharmacy. Healthprolink provides clinical documentation software to pharmacies and Pharmacy OneSource provides formulary management tools. The two firms reported that the combination of products and resources would help pharmacies address more than 15 of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations' 2005 Medication Management Standards and National Patient Safety Goals.

Among the suite of products that will be offered as a result of the integration of the two companies: DrugInfo OnceSource; Formulary OneSource; Quantifi; RxCredit & Waste OneSource; and UnitStock.