Cerner Acquires Lab Automation Company

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BY NOW, MANY OF YOU HAVE HEARD THE NEWS that Cerner Corporation has acquired Labotix, Inc., the laboratory automation company based in Peterborough, Ontario. That transaction was announced last Monday, March 18.

I consider this deal notable because it is an example of how strange bedfellows will be joining forces as healthcare undergoes a radical transformation in the coming years. In this case, it is a health information company purchasing a company that manufactures laboratory automation systems. Traditionally, these have been viewed as distinct businesses without much overlap.

What is changing traditional thinking is the fundamental shift in healthcare away from a system of independent providers toward a healthcare system comprised of integrated clinical care organizations. Thus, in the same manner that hospitals, physicians, and ancillary providers are coming together in ACOs, medical homes, and the like, it is reasonable to expect that healthcare vendors may see logic and opportunity in bringing diverse products and services into their particular corporate umbrella.

The goal of these vendors would be to create an integrated product and service offering that better meets the needs of an integrated provider organization. In that regard, Cerner’s acquisition of Labotix could be an early example of this corporate strategy. With its laboratory information system (LIS), Cerner holds significant market share, with hundreds of hospital labs as customers nationwide. For its part, Labotix has a total lab automation solution with task-targeted automation systems.

Could Cerner have a two-pronged strategy? One part would be full integration of its LIS with Labotix’s lab automation software (LAS) and its lab automation equipment. Part two would be to then offer this tightly-integrated bundle of lab software and lab automation equipment to its hospital lab customers. In theory, Cerner would be able to sell this integrated bundle on the promise of greater productivity, improved reliability, and unmatched capability to monitor both lab workflow and the performance of instrument systems in real time.

Time will tell if the integration of clinical providers encourages health vendors to similarly integrate across traditional lines of manufacturing and service. That is a reason to watch for more unexpected pairings, like last week’s acquisition of Labotix by Cerner Corporation.

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