Oracle-Cerner deal 6 months later: CIOs weigh in

Hospitals and health systems using Cerner for their EHR haven't seen a lot of changes in the six months since the vendor was bought by software giant Oracle, save for some extra engagement from the company, several CIOs told Becker's.

On June 8, Oracle completed its blockbuster, $28.4 billion deal for Cerner, the nation's second-largest hospital EHR vendor. Since that time, Cerner has continued its trend of picking up smaller, community hospital clients. Larry Ellison, Oracle's co-founder and chief technology officer, has also made clear his ambitions of creating a national — and one day, worldwide — patient database.

But several CIOs told Becker's it's still too early to say whether the deal will "transform" healthcare, as Oracle promised in announcing the deal. So far, any day-to-day differences have been minimal.

"At this time, we have not seen a lot of changes," said Linda Stevenson, CIO of Fisher-Titus Medical Center in Norwalk, Ohio. "Some of the leaders I have spoken with are optimistic that the additional resources will help to improve the professional services offering, as that has been challenging. However, I have not seen any changes yet."  

Joyce Oh, vice president and CIO of Tampa, Fla.-based Moffitt Cancer Center, said the main change she's seen has been more strategic engagement from the combined company.

She said Moffitt has been actively talking to Oracle Cerner about how they might partner not only on oncology work, but also as a clinical and research organization "committed to leveraging digital and data to bring about innovation, operational efficiencies and advancements in patient care."

"Given Oracle's stated commitment to healthcare and renewed interest in collaboration with healthcare providers, I am optimistic about what lies ahead and the potential opportunity to shape EHR technology from a health system's perspective," Ms. Oh said.

An Oracle Cerner spokesperson noted that even though the deal closed June 8, Cerner didn't officially become part of Oracle until Oct. 1. She pointed to projects unveiled at that month's Oracle Health conference, including streamlined charting and documentation for ambulatory providers, a new interoperability solution, a health data dashboard, and four virtual care pilots.

MaineGeneral Health in Augusta uses Cerner's revenue cycle solution, Soarian, and hasn't noticed any significant differences either, said CIO Mark St. John.

"We have not experienced any negative fallout from the acquisition, and other than a few minor organizational changes it has been business as usual," said James Wellman, chief digital and information officer of Findlay, Ohio-based Blanchard Valley Health System. "We have been asked for input regarding existing systems and services and to share our experiences and concerns." 

Tracy Donegan, chief information and innovation officer of Los Angeles-based MLK Community Healthcare, pointed to an article she wrote in July asking if Oracle Cerner would be the "Brady Bunch of the modern EHR."

At the time, she called it a "strategic union of two platforms — clinical meets back-office platforms, creating a single unified cloud offering for healthcare." She cited commentary that Oracle may have the best chance of any tech giant to disrupt healthcare because they chose to "do it from the inside."

"Perhaps the industry is better off that Oracle and Cerner are together than if 'they were all alone,'" Ms. Donegan wrote. "As with the Brady Bunch, there were bumps in the road in their first season but then came acceptance. The industry benefit to the Oracle and Cerner union may take a couple of seasons and some additional episodes, but industry transformation is a process."

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