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Oracle’s acquisition of Cerner for $28.3 billion is positive for providers, as the deal’s primary objective is a decrease in the amount of time spent on electronic health records.
Indeed, there should be less manual input of medical notes. Oracle and Cerner promoted easing physician burden in their announcement on Monday; in announcing the deal, the companies referenced a Mayo Clinic study published in November 2019 that found that physicians spend one to two hours on EHRs and documentation for every hour they spend with patients.
“They’re looking to help the healthcare professionals,” said John Foley, senior analyst with Acceleration Economy, a company focused on the acceleration of digital business through technology. “The way they’ll do that is through digital tools and technologies.”
Among the most effective is using a digital voice assistant for the EHR, the way Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa have been operating for consumers for years.
“These emerging technologies often take years to reach a critical point of adoption,” Foley said.
Oracle Chairman and Chief Technology Officer Larry Ellison said in a released statement: “With this acquisition, Oracle’s corporate mission expands to assume the responsibility to provide our overworked medical professionals with a new generation of easier-to-use digital tools that enable access to information via a hands-free voice interface to secure cloud applications. This new generation of medical information systems promises to lower the administrative workload burdening our medical professionals, improve patient privacy and outcomes, and lower overall healthcare costs.”
For Cerner, joining Oracle as a business unit accelerates the company’s work to modernize EHRs, according to Cerner CEO and President David Feinberg. This will improve the caregiver experience and enable more connected, high-quality and efficient patient care, he said.
“Cerner has been a leader in helping digitize medical care, and now it’s time to realize the real promise of that work with the care-delivery tools that get information to the right caregivers at the right time,” Feinberg said in a statement.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Executives have described physician burnout as a disrupting force in healthcare.
Combining Oracle’s cloud technology with Cerner’s EHR promises modern data management, automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning, all of which should help ease the provider burden, according to Foley.
It will also offer security liability for health information and health records. Secure and private access to health information is crucial.
“What you have with Oracle, they have technologies called back office, enterprise technologies, bringing a new generation of automation into data management,” said Foley, who worked for Oracle from 2013 to 2018.
On the user front-end, the automation of digital voice assistant will improve both the patient and provider experience, he said.
The Oracle Autonomous Database, a self-healing database, brings a new level of productivity and efficiency into the world of data management, he said.
“You have this automation front-to-back,” Foley said.
THE LARGER TREND
Big tech and cloud companies are building domain expertise across industries.
A big trend across industries in moving data management to the cloud is what’s called multicloud and hybrid cloud, Foley said. Another platform could be on another leading cloud, allowing for a “handshake across clouds,” he said.
“It’s a big opportunity in the industry for expertise in industry-specific solutions.”
Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google and Microsoft are big cloud and data providers.
Cerner is already a customer of AWS. In July, Cerner announced a collaboration with AWS on cloud innovation and machine learning.
Foley predicts other healthcare providers will be making plays for specific expertise and capabilities, both in M&A and partnerships.
“I expect a lot of activity over the next two years,” Foley said,
For Oracle and other cloud providers, healthcare falls within the top five markets they’re courting, according to Foley. Oracle, which has 40-plus years of experience in data management, gets to play to its strength in the world of cloud, he said.
The acquisition is expected to be a revenue driver for Oracle, to “contribute substantially” to Oracle’s earnings in the second fiscal year and thereafter, said CEO Safra Catz.
“Healthcare is the largest and most important vertical market in the world – $3.8 trillion last year in the United States alone,” Catz said in a statement.
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