Oracle announced it will purchase health technology developer Cerner for about $28.3 billion and is explicitly planning to expand its clinical voice assistants to more physicians. Cerner handles electronic health records (EHR) for a wide range of healthcare providers, including the Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Cerner has been a leader in helping digitize medical care and now it’s time to realize the real promise of that work with the care delivery tools that get information to the right caregivers at the right time,” Cerner CEO David Feinberg said, “Joining Oracle as a dedicated Industry Business Unit provides an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate our work modernizing electronic health records (EHR), improving the caregiver experience, and enabling more connected, high-quality and efficient patient care.”
Cerner is one of the biggest healthcare data companies in the U.S., providing doctors and hospitals around the country with tools for adding and tracking patient data. The company had begun moving toward hands-free tools to reduce the time and effort needed to fill out paperwork over the last couple of years, especially as it is a leading cause of doctor burnout. Cerner had added Nuance’s Dragon Medical Virtual Assistant to its platform in 2020. Still, Microsoft’s $19.7 billion acquisition of Nuance might have changed the equation for Cerner, as it had already built much of its tech infrastructure through Oracle.
“Oracle’s Autonomous Database, low-code development tools, and Voice Digital Assistant user interface enables us to rapidly modernize Cerner’s systems and move them to our Gen2 Cloud,” Oracle executive vice president Mike Sicilia said. “This can be done very quickly because Cerner’s largest business and most important clinical system already runs on the Oracle Database. No change required there. What will change is the user interface. We will make Cerner’s systems much easier to learn and use by making Oracle’s hands-free Voice Digital Assistant the primary interface to Cerner’s clinical systems. This will allow medical professionals to spend less time typing on computer keyboards and more time caring for patients.”
Clinical voice AI tools are rapidly becoming a standard part of healthcare IT, attracting plenty of acquisition and investment interest. Earlier this month, clinical healthcare AI startup Suki raised $55 million, and it is hardly unique, especially in the wake of COVID-19 and healthcare providers’ relatively rapid adoption of the tech. Companies like Notable, which recently brought in $100 million, and Saykara, now acquired by Nuance, are raising the profile of the tech, which is sweeping across more specialized medical services like dental-focused Bola and veterinarian-centered Talktoo. The Cerner acquisition simply cements the trend at the largest scale possible.
“Working together, Cerner and Oracle have the capacity to transform healthcare delivery by providing medical professionals with better information—enabling them to make better treatment decisions resulting in better patient outcomes,” Oracle chairman and CTO Larry Ellison said. “With this acquisition, Oracle’s corporate mission expands to assume the responsibility to provide our overworked medical professionals with a new generation of easier-to-use digital tools that enable access to information via a hands-free voice interface to secure cloud applications. This new generation of medical information systems promises to lower the administrative workload burdening our medical professionals, improve patient privacy and outcomes, and lower overall healthcare costs.”
  
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Eric Hal Schwartz is Head Writer and Podcast Producer for Voicebot.AI. Eric has been a professional writer and editor for more than a dozen years, specializing in the stories of how science and technology intersect with business and society. Eric is based in New York City.

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