Oracle’s Plans for Cerner Might Increase Value of Lab Test Data

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ONE MAJOR INFORMATICS PLAYER HAS AMBITIOUS PLANS that could make diagnostic data more accessible and, at the same time, more valuable for clinical laboratories. Oracle, the new owner of Cerner Corporation, is telling financial analysts that it wants to create a national repository of health records. 

With the technology giant’s acquisition of Cerner now complete, Oracle Chairman and Chief Technology Officer Larry Ellison said the company plans to build a cloud-based, national health records repository on top of existing electronic health record (EHR) systems.

“Each hospital system has its own patient electronic health records databases,” Ellison said during a virtual presentation on June 9. “There are thousands of them in the United States.”

With the amount of lab test results stored in EHRs and companion laboratory information systems (LIS), such data becomes very valuable in Oracle’s scenario. Beyond patient treatment, a larger pool of anonymized testing data would benefit research and public health. (See TDR, “Oracle’s $28b Cerner Deal Shows Value of Health Data,” Jan. 31, 2022.)

A national database would allow greater interoperability and sharing of health records. “With that information, doctors can provide far better care,” Ellison noted. Achieving interoperability of health records is a major challenge. Providers and patients recognize the value of having broad access to records, but health systems, software vendors, and others regularly stymie efforts to share that data.

Ellison did not detail how Oracle will get competing EHR vendors to allow Oracle’s proposed database to integrate with their products. It is likely that many health systems that use those EHR products also run Oracle systems, which may provide an avenue in for Oracle.

Voice-Enabled Feature

Oracle, based in Austin, Texas, announced on Dec. 21 that it would buy Cerner in Kansas City, Mo., for $28 billion. It was the largest acquisition in Oracle’s history. (See TDR, “LIS Market Will Change after Oracle, CliniSys Deals,” Jan. 31, 2022.)

Cerner is a top EHR vendor and many clinical labs and pathology groups are familiar with the company for its LIS products. Cerner had early success selling LIS solutions. However, in 2011, as federal incentives prompted hospitals to install EHRs, Cerner devoted more resources towards its Millennium EHR and ongoing investment in its LIS lagged.

Ellison said that big changes are coming to Millennium, some of which will be of interest to hundreds of hospital clinical laboratories that use Cerner.

For example, Oracle will add a voice-enabled interface to Millennium, which in theory would allow a lab employee or physician to say, “Give me all of Larry Ellison’s lab test results,” and then have those results immediately show up on the computer screen.

Also, all patient diagnostic results stored on Millennium will be fed into a machine learning algorithm, which will create an anonymized database of testing data and other patient information. The ability to aggregate and analyze large collections of clinical lab data is a cornerstone of population health efforts. 

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