HIMSS24: Oracle Health builds out generative AI tools in its quest to 'eliminate clicks' for clinicians

ORLANDO, Florida—Software giant Oracle continues to build out generative AI tools in its healthcare solutions as it debuted a new service for care management this week and plans to roll out its gen AI-based clinical assistant next quarter.

At the HIMSS 2024 conference, Oracle unveiled new capabilities in its healthcare data platform including generative AI service to simplify care management, prebuilt clinical quality analytics and automated alerts. The enhancements include prebuilt analytics for common requirements including determinants of health, childhood wellness, immunization and chronic conditions such as diabetes and chronic obstruction pulmonary disease, according to the company.

The Oracle Health Data Intelligence platform, formerly called HealtheIntent, is a suite of cloud applications, services and analytics. 

"The new capabilities embedded within Oracle Health Data Intelligence can dramatically simplify customer efforts to address their regulatory goals, engage more patients, close care gaps, and lower cost of care delivery," Seema Verma, executive vice president and general manager, Oracle health and life sciences, said in a statement. “With thousands of engineers and data scientists focused on platform enhancements, Oracle Health Data Intelligence is rapidly becoming an engine of innovation to control costs, enable breakthroughs, and drive industry transformation.”

Oracle acquired health IT company Cerner in a $28 billion deal in June 2022 to push deeper into the healthcare market and help boost its cloud business.

During Oracle's fiscal third-quarter earnings (PDF) call Monday, Larry Ellison, Oracle's executive chairman and chief technology officer, said the company is "completely reengineering its industry-specific applications to take full advantage of generative artificial intelligence."

"The best example of this is in healthcare where Oracle did not just add a bit of AI around the edges of existing applications. Instead, we developed completely new applications using our APEX application generator and our autonomous database. These all-new applications use generative AI throughout the application," Ellison told investors.

In the third quarter, Oracle finished moving the majority of Cerner customers to Oracle’s Gen2 cloud infrastructure, Ellison noted. Transitioning Cerner to the cloud enables Oracle to update applications on a regular three-month cadence, he said.

"We're able to modernize those customers that are in the cloud on a regular basis and start delivering our brand-new applications, the completely rewritten Cerner application first for ambulatory clinics and then eventually for acute care hospitals," Ellison said.

Oracle's new ambulatory clinic cloud application suite will be available next quarter, he said. "This completely new application features a voice interface called the clinical digital assistant. The clinical digital assistant listens to a doctor's consultations with a patient and automatically generates prescriptions, doctors' orders, doctors' notes, then automatically updates the patient's electronic health records. The clinical digital assistant's voice interface makes our new healthcare systems dramatically easier to use and saves hours of doctors' precious time every day, which now can be spent with patients rather than typing into a computer," Ellison said.

He added, "The delivery of this revolutionary new healthcare technology will enable the rapid modernization of our customers’ health systems over the coming year, and transform Cerner and Oracle Health into a high-growth business for years to come.”

The company previewed these new capabilities in its Cerner electronic health record system during its Oracle Health Conference in Las Vegas back in September.

The Oracle Clinical Digital Assistant combines generative AI technology with voice commands to help reduce providers' manual work, executives said last fall. The multimodal voice and screen-based assistant participates in the doctor-patient appointment using generative AI to automate note-taking and to propose context-aware next actions such as ordering medication or scheduling labs and follow-up appointments, executives said.

Oracle executives also said the digital assistant will make it easier for patients to take self-service actions such as scheduling appointments, paying a medical bill or checking clinical information using simple voice commands. Patients can use the tool to get generative AI-driven answers to questions such as, "What happens during a colonoscopy?"

Since acquiring Cerner almost two years ago, Oracle has set to work "rethinking and reimagining" the user interface for many of the health IT company's core applications, Mike Sicilia, executive vice president of Oracle Industries, told Fierce Healthcare during an interview at the ViVE conference in Los Angeles in February.

"We are embedding listening technology as well as generative AI technology in the context of patient encounters so that our goal is to eliminate clicks from the screens," Sicilia said. "Feedback we've gotten from providers, which is not unusual in the EHR space, is that the systems are too cumbersome, there are too many clicks. We're not trying to go from 10 clicks to seven clicks. We're trying to eliminate clicks altogether. Our vision is that the system should completely disappear into the background. It should be there to automate what are natural interactions between patients and providers."

The company also is redesigning its patient portal with a modern interface, and that update will be available later this year, Sicilia noted.

"We have more people working on the EHR application suite than there ever have been in the history of Cerner," he added.

Oracle also is focused on developing an end-to-end solution for healthcare on its Oracle Cloud Infrastructure platform to integrate its EHR, healthcare management systems, ERP modules and billing systems, Sicilia said.

"We're focused on modernizing existing applications and completing a healthcare end-to-end suite with everything from patient scheduling and consumer payments all the way through the back-end billing as well as the clinical systems, and then putting a modern hyperscale cyber infrastructure around those things to deliver that all as a service to our customers," Sicilia said. "Our Cerner modernization efforts will not require our customers to migrate their data, which means it will not require them to re-implement their systems. We're doing this on top of the existing systems so that customers can implement this incrementally at their pace and at their speed."

He added, "We're going to take advantage of the innovation that real cloud vendors can bring to the space which is new releases very quickly on a rapid basis."

Oracle's stock jumped 12% on Tuesday after the company reported quarterly earnings that beat analysts' expectations. The legacy database software company reported strong demand for its cloud infrastructure business, boosted by AI.

Total revenue during the most recent quarter came to $13.3 billion, up 7%. Cloud revenue, including Cerner, grew 24% to a total of $5.5 billion during the quarter. When excluding Cerner, the company's cloud revenue grew 26% during the quarter.

The Cerner business continues to drag on Oracle's overall growth. CEO Safra Catz told investors that the company's full-year revenue, excluding Cerner, will accelerate from last year and will likely be significantly higher in fiscal year 2025.

"Cerner, which is a significant headwind this year, we expect to return to growth next year," Catz said.