Oracle Cerner unveils new tech capabilities: Virtual nursing, tools to streamline charting, billing and data integration

Four months after it was acquired by software maker Oracle, health IT giant Cerner, now Oracle Cerner, unveiled new tech upgrades to build on its promise of delivering "next-generation" health tech systems.

"We have the marriage of one of the world's greatest technology companies with the global leader in the EHR [electronic health record] space," said David Feinberg, M.D., Oracle Health chairman during the Oracle Cerner Health Conference in Kansas City Monday evening. The event was also livestreamed.

"Together, Oracle and Cerner are going to allow you to care for your patients and communities like never before, because I believe now is our time. We're going to provide you with a cloud-enabled health platform that is intelligent, connected and interoperable. We're going to integrate the EHR into the supply chain. We're going to integrate the EHR into human capital management and integrate the EHR into enterprise resource planning," Feinberg said during a keynote to kick off the three-day corporate conference.

With the $28.3 billion Cerner deal, database giant Oracle is pushing deeper into the healthcare market, and the acquisition should help the company scale up its cloud business.

Oracle Cerner executives say the company is focused on leveraging the same cloud capabilities it has used to power consumer-facing technology to modernize the Cerner Millennium EHR and improve the clinician experience.

Feinberg, a physician and psychiatrist by training, said medical care today is "rushed, transactional, reactive and impersonal," because clinicians are using technology and tools that impede rather than support their clinical work.

When touring hospitals and health systems that are Cerner clients, Feinberg makes it a point to speak with front desk administrators. "I ask them, 'How do you like our tools?' The feedback is mixed," said Feinberg, a healthcare executive who led Geisinger Health and UCLA Health then jumped to Google Health before Cerner.

"A lot of the issues are immediately addressable. Some of it's training, some of it's optimization and some of it we're still working on. The biggest impression that I have after all these visits is that everyone is sitting or standing in front of a computer. Very few people are tending to patients in an exam room or in a clinic. We have literally moved the exam room or the clinic to the terminal."

Oracle Cerner is putting "tremendous engineering resources" into improving the EHR and making all its healthcare solutions more usable, said Mike Sicilia, executive vice president of Oracle Cerner.

Sicilia was bullish on Oracle's ability to succeed in healthcare when other big tech companies had failed.

"They haven't tried to fix enough of the problem. They haven't tried to fix the clinical systems. They haven't tried to fix the back office systems. They haven't tried to fix the staff scheduling payroll systems, claims adjudication modules, point of care payment systems, and frankly, all of that has been tremendously underserved by technology vendors. The fact that we're willing to take it all on is the single biggest differentiator," he said.

The company unveiled Monday tech updates to modernize administrative and documentation functions. New integrated charting in the Cerner Millennium EHR will enable all care team members to be able to quickly find and document the needed information in a single view without having to dig through the chart to find relevant notes from other clinicians, executives said. And, a new problem summary enables any care team member to enter a quick summary view of a patient’s ongoing condition so that information can easily surface in a single-view source.

Nasim Afsar, M.D., chief health officer at Oracle Health, called the new problem summary a "game changer," particularly for caregivers managing patients with chronic conditions,

"Now all of this information can be easily viewed. Caregivers can create a narrative for each problem, and update that story over time with details of what has been tried, what has and hasn’t worked and how a disease has progressed, making it easy for the whole care team to follow along," Afsar said during the conference.

To address workforce challenges, Oracle Cerner developed virtual models of care to help streamline administrative processes, like admission and discharge, while shifting time, resources and quality care to other patients.

Health systems IU Health, Banner Health, Tenet Health and UHS are currently piloting the company's virtual care models. 

"Nurses left the profession, particularly during the pandemic, and new virtual care models could bring some people back," Afsar said. "While the floor nurse is performing physical assessments, administrating medications and care, the virtual nurse can review documentation, deliver discharge education to the patient and review pharmacy orders."

The company plans to expand these virtual care models to other healthcare roles such as pharmacy technicians and case managers, she said.  

Oracle Cerner also announced a new interoperability tool called Seamless Exchange that can bring in external and internal patient data, even from disparate EHR systems, removes duplicate data and organizes the data as a single longitudinal patient record within a clinician’s workflow, according to executives.

"While I'm proud of how far we've come with interoperability, the other side of the coin is data abundance, which can mean information overload, especially for caregivers at the point of care. Seamless Exchange aims to solve this challenge by removing the noise, transforming and organizing the data in more meaningful ways. It synthesizes disparate data into a single longitudinal record while removing duplicate and incomplete fields. Think of duplicate medications, allergies and clinical diagnoses," Afsar said.

Health system Ascension is now using the interoperability tool and it helps clinicians access critical patient information in a way that is "natively integrated" into the patient record, said Samit Desai, M.D., Ascension's chief medical information officer.

Back in June, Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison laid out a bold vision and said Oracle plans to build a national health record database that would pull data from thousands of hospital-centric EHRs. The lofty ambition was met with a healthy dose of skepticism by interoperability experts who have been striving for years to build technical "roadways" to make it easier to access and share health data.

The company also rolled out a new patient accounting solution that integrates with Cerner's EHR system to help drive more accurate claims, executives said. The software also uses advanced automation to remove repetitive tasks that burden billing and operations, such as applying self-pay or insurance adjustments.