LIKE MOST OF YOU, IT CERTAINLY CAUGHT MY ATTENTION WHEN I LEARNED in December that Oracle will pay $28 billion—with a B!—to buy Cerner Corporation.
I don’t question the value of Cerner’s products; the company has an EHR product that holds significant market share. It also has an impressive list of hospital and health system customers that use its full menu of healthcare information systems—including LIS products for clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups. However, lab executives and pathologists should understand the primary reason Oracle is willing to pay $28 billion to purchase Cerner: it gains access to huge quantities of patient and healthcare data that is handled daily by Cerner’s information systems.
Healthcare in the United States is transforming and the foundation for this transformation will be how providers and other players access data, analyze data, and use that data to identify patients who are at risk, then guide physicians and other providers to deliver proactive and preventive care to those patients.
One key technology that will enable this transformation is artificial intelligence. A growing number of AI-powered healthcare solutions are now entering the healthcare marketplace and demonstrating that they can add value. But it requires access to large quantities of data for AI to be used in ways that can deliver value in the delivery of clinical care. The executive team at Oracle knows this. By acquiring Cerner, Oracle positions itself to have access to the multiple types of clinical, operational, and claims/reimbursement data that flow daily through all the Cerner information systems.
Seen from this perspective, Oracle isn’t really investing $28 billion to purchase a company (Cerner) that provides basic information technology services to hospitals, health systems, clinical labs, pathology groups, physicians, and other providers. Rather, it’s spending that money as a way to access the vast amount of healthcare data and information that flows into these systems.
Oracle will then develop AI tools to analyze that data and create actionable intelligence to guide clinical care and generate new insights about population health and the effectiveness of precision medicine services delivered to patients. In this regard, one can say that Oracle is spending $28 billion as its ticket to gain entry into the Brave New World of Healthcare Big Data.