Oracle's Ellison on Building Next Gen Health Care Apps

Oracle is on a mission to provide physicians with a more efficient way to access patient information, the company's co-founder and CTO Larry Ellison said during his keynote at the CloudWorld 2022 conference in Las Vegas, Nev.

Oracle is planning, Ellison told attendees, to create a global health database, a health management system, a national health management system, provider health management systems, a patient engagement set of modules and a provider operations set of modules.

"We're going to build a patient engagement system that makes it very easy for medical professionals and patients to communicate, and for patients to share their health experiences with medical professionals," he said. "And we're going to automate that connection between patients and providers."

"What we are trying to do has never been attempted before," he added.

One of the greatest challenges in healthcare technology today is creating electronic health records (EHRs) that are patient-centric rather than provider-centric, Ellison explained. Typically, an individual's medical history is scattered across the EHR systems of the often many providers they have used over the years, making it difficult for physicians to access all the information they need to make informed and timely treatment decisions.

"Your health records are scattered in dozens and dozens of databases," he said. "They're stored in databases owned by every provider you've ever visited in your entire life. It's terribly fragmented, and this creates a number of problems... basically, the current generation of healthcare systems put the providers, the big hospitals, at the center of the system. Not patients. And that's a fundamental problem."

Ellison threw a spotlight on the healthcare tools and expertise his company, which is one of the world's largest providers of database management software, brings to this mission -- namely Oracle's open cloud infrastructure, which interconnects with other vendors' clouds; its roster of cloud application suites, which includes platforms for healthcare and the life sciences; and its recent acquisition of Cerner, whose Millennium EHR (electronic health record) system, used by more than 2,000 hospital groups and practices, Oracle is modernizing as a cloud application. Oracle is working on AI-powered voice-to-text applications and other UI improvements for the Millennium EHR system.

Oracle completed its acquisition of Cerner in June of this year. "We have a joint mission to take Cerner's knowledge of healthcare and our knowledge of technology and merge them together to tackle the next generation of healthcare systems," he said.

But Ellison emphasized that his company's healthcare mission isn't actually new. Oracle's infrastructure technology and applications have been used for years in medical research, in clinical trials, and to help healthcare providers better manage their financial planning, inventories, supply chains and workforces, he said. But he also stressed that this specific mission is unique, and would be unlikely to succeed without the cooperation of the entire healthcare ecosystem, including care providers, major technology system vendors, independent software vendors (ISVs), researchers and pharmaceutical companies.

"There's no way we can do this by ourselves," he said. "We don't have the domain expertise. We have to have partners as we automate the ecosystem. And we have a lot of help from a lot of partners who are just as committed as we are."

As an example, Ellison pointed to Oracle's work with the University of Oxford on a Global Pathogen Analysis System. The university relied on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure during its genomic sequencing and analysis of SARS-CoV-2, in part to identify new COVID-19 variants. He also talked about Oracle's partnership with Ronin Healthcare, a clinical decision support solutions provider. Ronin developed an AI module for the MD Anderson Cancer Center that's designed to reduce hospitalizations of cancer patients by monitoring them during their outpatient treatment plans. The module can plug into Cerner Millennium or any other open EHR.

"We had to make our development environment an open platform where [Ronin] could innovate and develop technology that could run on our healthcare platform," he said.

Ellison also talked about the applications Oracle has been developing to help healthcare providers manage their people, which he said is a critical priority because of the worldwide shortage of doctors, physician assistants, nurses and other frontline health workers, which was made even worse by pandemic-related burnout. New enhancements to the Oracle Fusion Cloud Human Capital Management and Enterprise Performance Management application suites are being designed to make it easier for healthcare organizations to recruit, schedule, evaluate, pay and forecast demand for workers. Ellison compared healthcare providers to rideshare company Uber and other gig economy companies; both are managing a revolving crew of working unpredictable hours from a variety of locations under different kinds of contracts.

Oracle is also developing a smartphone application designed to help doctors and nurses inside large hospitals quickly identify the nearest on-prem locations of medications, medical devices, and other critical RFID-tagged supplies, Ellison said. And the company is working to automate the process for insurance company payments to healthcare providers, which is still mainly a manual process.

More than 60,000 Oracle customers and partners attended CloudWorld this year, conference organizers reported. The event featured 2,000 sessions, 250 exhibitors, and speakers from more than 90 countries.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].

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