Record Keeping Deal for New Future Tools
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Record Keeping Deal for New Future Tools

When Oracle Corporation, one of the world’s largest computer software companies, closed its buy of the Cerner Corporation for $28.3 billion earlier this year, it was the largest deal yet in the race to digitize the world’s health care records.

Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison has made a big bet that healthcare will be a major contributor to his company’s revenues.
Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison has made a big bet that healthcare will be a major contributor to his company’s revenues.

When Oracle Corporation, one of the world’s largest computer software, companies closed its buy of the Cerner Corporation for $28.3 billion earlier this year, it was the largest deal yet in the race to digitize the world’s health care records.

It was also three times more than Oracle had ever paid for another company. Industry observers saw it as an indication of how serious Oracle, a database software and cloud systems provider, are in becoming a major provider of data for payers and suppliers of healthcare services. The move opens a new line of business for Oracle, which in recent years was seen as lagging in migrating its business to cloud based applications.

Oracle’s CEO, Safra Catz, characterized the buy as an important way that Oracle will expand into healthcare, which she characterized as the “largest and most important vertical market in the world — $3.8 trillion last year in the United States alone.”

Former Emory Healthcare CEO Jonathan Levin had to contend with the limitations of electronic healthcare systems.

Her boss, Oracle founder Larry Ellison, who is the company’s chairman and chief technology officer, saw the marriage of Cerner’s digital record keeping tools with Oracle’s development of a hands-free voice interface and secure cloud software to boost efficiency for overworked medical staff.

The company pointed to a study in 2019 by the Mayo Clinic that found that doctors spent an hour on updating medical records for every hour they spent in caring for a patient. Mayo surveyed over 30,000 physicians from a cross section of specialties who gave a grade of F for the usability of currently available electronic health record systems. Moreover, the failure of health record keeping aids was considered a strong contributor to a physician’s psychological and professional burnout.

And it is not just individual physicians that are affected by their attempts to work with the complex systems that are a part of the modern American healthcare environment. Last year the CEO and Chairman of Emory Healthcare, Dr. Jonathan Levin, whose 11 hospitals and 250 locations in metro Atlanta created revenues that topped $3.5 billion, stepped down last year after six years on the job. A decision that certainly was hastened by the pressures of Emory taking a leading role in battling the pandemic.

Part of the challenge was in working to bring together not only with Emory network of facilities but in aiding other major healthcare systems, such as those at WellStar, Piedmont, Grady, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. All of which have their own electronic systems.

Dr. Levin said he was returning to his “roots” — presumably a quieter life in education and the development of medical technology at Emory. He told CNN that it was not a sudden decision. He said he wanted, like Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame player Cal Ripken Jr, “to go out at the top of your game.’’

“I’m looking forward to visiting my adult kids and spending [more] time with my wife,” Levin said.

Oracle’s Ellison probably had healthcare professionals like Levin in mind when he commented on the Cerner buy.

Oracle’s acquisition of Cerner is aimed at boosting the growth of electronic medical record keeping.

“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.”

The move had the full support of Cerner’s president and chief executive officer, David Feinberg, who took his job only a year before, and will stay with the merged company.

“Joining Oracle as a dedicated Industry Business Unit provides an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate our work modernizing electronic health records, improving the caregiver experience, and enabling more connected, high-quality and efficient patient care. “

In June, Ellison said during a press briefing, that the goal of the company was to create a national health cloud-based data bank that pulls information from thousands of hospitals and medical centers. In many cases these medical records are only resident at those individual facilities.

He pointed out that makes it difficult for the information to be shared and for research teams to do large scale studies and cuts into the efficiencies of an already highly inefficient system. It’s said that for decades experts in healthcare technology systems and the federal government have worked to make the sharing of health records at separate institutions easier.

Only in 2020 was the National Institutes of Health able to create a centralized record database and then only for one purpose, for COVID-19 research. But that was accomplished only because the data collected was anonymous, didn’t require patient consent and was done through a concerted, ambitious effort by a team that had worked for years on the communication issues that had bedeviled previous attempts.

Although all three of the executives involved in this attempt to create medical technology history come from different educational and social backgrounds, what united all three Ellison, Catz and Feinberg was their Jewish heritage, most noticeably for Catz, who was born in Israel.

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