One of the deepest problems with health care in the United States (and perhaps the world) is the fragmented and siled nature of health data. This narrative is largely driven by the large number of electronic health record (EHR) systems currently in use. These are the systems that contain a person’s medical data, history and past treatment records. When a patient has a medical appointment, their information is accessible through an EHR system, so doctors can provide organized treatment based on the patient’s background and history.
The problem, however, is that there are many different EHR and health informatics systems, which means that a patient’s records may not be accessible across different organizations. This poses a huge problem: if John Doe ends up in a different hospital from his home facility for any reason, unless that hospital is using the exact same recording and information system, it would be difficult for treating physicians to access any of John Doe’s medical history. This creates myriad challenges when it comes to determining the best way to treat someone, understanding someone’s medical history, and getting a holistic view of the patient.
For many years, healthcare experts have pointed to this as a major obstacle to achieving better patient outcomes. As a result, many people have also come up with a solution to this: why not just create a universal system that can be implemented in all healthcare facilities?
This is exactly the question that Larry Ellison, co-founder and leader of Oracle, a world-renowned technology company, is trying to answer. The company has been a pioneer in the healthcare industry, with its cloud computing technology and advanced systems software supporting some of the largest healthcare organizations and institutions in the world.
More recently, Oracle continued its vision of impacting healthcare by purchasing Cerner for nearly $28 billion. Cerner is one of the largest EHR systems in the world, used by institutions around the world to organize millions of patient records and encounters. This means that Oracle now not only has access to this data, but also has a unique opportunity to turn this concept into something more effective for the industry.
Ellison shared his thoughts on this at Oracle’s The Future of Healthcare conference earlier this month: “Together, Cerner and Oracle have all the technology needed to create a revolutionary new management information system. of health in the cloud. […] This system will provide much better information to healthcare professionals. Better information will fundamentally transform healthcare […] We’re building a system where health records, all of the health records of American citizens, not only exist at the hospital level, but they’re all in a unified national health care database. […] The national database solves the problem of data fragmentation in electronic health records.”
Of course, this journey will encounter significant obstacles. This is certainly not the first time that a national database has been proposed as a solution to the fragmentation of health records. However, health records are notoriously difficult to navigate and organize, given the sensitivity of this data to people’s lives and identities, and therefore the strict stipulations the government places on the data for the protection of patients. A nationalized database will also certainly come under scrutiny for the amount of security vulnerability it opens up, especially as healthcare cyberattacks have increased dramatically over the past decade. Indeed, there will be many challenges in carrying out this effort.
Without a doubt, the fragmentation of healthcare data is detrimental to patient safety, care and healthcare outcomes. Oracle certainly has its work cut out for it in the coming months as it attempts to navigate this path. However, the innovative vision that the company is trying to convey bodes well for the future of health data, because it is indeed an issue that ultimately must be resolved.