Varian has seen its own coverage of the specialized oncology information system (OIS) market falter in recent years, as hospitals started to digitalize patient records and larger businesses like Epic and Cerner expanded coverage to specialized oncology modules. While these solutions are not designed to cover radiation oncology management, they can provide software for the medical oncology workflow. Decisions to adopt these EMR-based clinical module solutions occur at the C-suite level, where cost savings and contract consolidation can be a more prominent concern over retaining established legacy "best of breed" clinical systems like OIS. However, ongoing competition between EMR vendors and specialist oncology software vendors is likely to remain predominantly in the surgical and chemotherapy management applications, as EMR vendors seem unlikely to develop their own internal radiation oncology solutions.
Assuming minimal difficulties with integration, solving interoperability challenges mid-term, and a relatively short transition period, it is already clear Varian will likely benefit from its new home as part of Siemens Healthineers.
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Despite COVID-19’s challenging economic legacy, the deal also poses a promising future to providers regarding the wider development of Oncology IT, offering the choice to use one vendor for almost all oncology solutions. How quickly providers shift toward this approach remains uncertain, though current momentum toward consolidated deals for large acute providers suggest this shift is on the horizon.
Competitors in the oncology IT space should take the move as a prompt to start investing in the cohesive provision of oncology care management; whereas competing larger healthcare technology vendors may question if now they should be broadening their own scope across disciplinary workflows. This may prompt more aggressive strategic moves in the sector, either via acquisition of key vendor or technology assets from major healthcare technology vendors, or closer-knit partnerships between competitors of Siemens-Varian to offer a more complete solution set to compete with the new broad oncology offering at the firm. With a new era of precision medicine beckoning as technology evolves, it’s clear that the oncology IT segment will be entering a new, digital phase. Siemens has bet big with the Varian deal that having most technology assets under one roof is the way forward — whether this pays off for the firm is not yet clear, but we believe first-mover advantage and its leadership position in other allied sectors gives the deal a good chance of success.