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Oracle buys "healthcare anchor" Cerner for $28 billion, grabbing a critical customer from AWS

Oracle’s biggest acquisition yet sends ripples across the NHS

Oracle has agreed to buy healthcare IT firm Cerner for $28.3 billion in its biggest acquisition yet. Cerner, which generated $5.5. billion in revenues in 2020, provides electronic health records (EHR) to multiple NHS trusts.

The company claims to have over a quarter *26%) of the global EHR market cornered.

Cerner also provides software that is widely used by community pharmacies in the UK to share patients’ health and care data across an integrated care system (ICS) using its Health Information Exchange (HIE) platform.

Its tools include apps that let care staff capture patients’ vital signs and observations directly into EHR.

Cerner will be Oracle’s “anchor asset to expand into healthcare” Oracle said December 20.

Oracle buys Cerner: Eyes shift from AWS to its own cloud

Traditionally an on-premises software provider, Cerner in 2019 selected AWS as its preferred cloud provider.

Its partnership with the hyperscaler has seen it reframe itself away from being an "EHR-centric company to a digital platform organization" according to Dan Devers, Cerner's senior VP of cloud strategy in 2020.

Devers added in a 2020 interview: "What drew us to AWS was their market leadership and the way they are viewed in the healthcare industry around stability, security, privacy and reliability."

Oracle said on Monday it will move Cerner's software to its own Oracle Cloud, however.

"This can be done very quickly because Cerner's largest business and most important clinical system already runs on the Oracle Database" Mike Sicilia, EVP for vertical industries at Oracle, said in a canned statement.

He added: “No change 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” Sicilia claimed.

The 2019 partnership between Cerner and AWS had also seen it agree a deal that lets Amazon's "Halo" health wearables consumers share their health information, such as activity, sleep, bloody fat percentage and other wellness data, with their care teams and directly into their electronic health records.

It was not immediately clear if that partnership would continue.

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Not everyone was thrilled. As one NHS digital worker put it on Twitter with more than a little sarcasm: NHS staff up and down the country are rejoicing the potential for clinical EPRs to become as user friendly as the current Oracle-based NHS HR system – ESR”

Larry Ellison, Chairman and CTO, Oracle 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.”

There is a "significant opportunity to help customers use Oracle’s modern technologies such as cloud, AI, ML and other innovations to make care more accessible, secure, efficient and effective for patients and caregivers" Oracle added. The company expects the $95/share all-cash tender offer to close in 2022.

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