True marriage of health and tech is needed to improve lives globally

David Feinberg, Chairman, Oracle Health

Accelerating innovation and collaboration to improve care

Clinicians didn’t enter medicine to spend half their time on charts and administrative tasks. These heroes, who I call “caregivers,” chose their profession because they love their communities and want to care for and heal people by practicing at the top of their license. But some of the tools and resources designed to help healthcare providers treat patients can take time and energy away from answering this calling.

Technology has transformed many parts of our lives—from the way we shop to the way we bank and communicate. So, why aren’t we using the latest technology to deliver care and reduce the time caregivers spend on administrative tasks? Why aren’t we using the latest technology to ensure that patients—and caregivers—have access to their complete health record?

At Oracle Cerner, we’re imagining new ways to use technology to help healthcare organizations deliver more equitable care and drive operational and financial sustainability.

After spending decades caring for patients—first as a clinician and then as a healthcare administrator—I’m convinced that technology can only fulfill its promise when we use data and insights to serve people. Imagine a doctor who advises a diabetic patient to eat healthier foods and exercise regularly—only to have this person keep coming back with consistently high blood sugar numbers. The doctor continues prescribing medication to control the condition, not knowing the patient can’t afford or access fresh produce.

It’s a scenario that plays out across the United States, but at Geisinger, a hospital system I led in rural Pennsylvania, we believed this vital piece of social data was just as important as a drug. We started screening patients with type 2 diabetes for food insecurity and documented the results in their electronic health record (EHR). Then, whenever a caregiver pulled up the patient chart and saw this, they could refer the patient to a program for free healthy food. It sounds like a deceptively simple solution, but at the most basic level, healthcare is about using the right information at the right time to care for people.

Imagining a new way to use technology in healthcare

While the EHR shouldn’t be the sole focus of health innovation, it’s a good place to start. EHRs store patient data and are used by clinicians to, among other things, order medications, scans and labs. They also help healthcare organizations manage billing and payments. EHRs have changed the way care is documented, managed, and monetized—but none of them have done enough to curb costs or make healthcare more equitable, effective, or efficient.

Part of the reason is, despite all this information being digitized, there's still no single, longitudinal, or complete health record for a person that securely documents and displays every doctor's visit, procedure, or medication. In our complex world, none of us receive care in one single place. We move cities, use different hospitals, clinics, labs, outpatient centers, and pharmacies. All this data is siloed in disparate systems that don’t talk to each other. The data doesn’t flow easily and securely among systems.

This can impact the care a person receives, and it takes a toll on those who provide it. Today, clinicians spend too many hours manually entering data, and hospital staff spend too much time searching for resources they can’t locate in the system. These disjointed systems also slow down innovation and research.

Now, imagine an easy-to-use EHR that brings together every relevant detail needed to provide the best care. It’s a tool that lets doctors and nurses talk with a patient while a device in the background captures the noteworthy pieces. This same system makes it easy for caregivers to order medications and follow-up exams with a single click or voice command. It also connects to intelligent software that tracks every aspect of a hospital’s inventory, so administrators instantly know the availability and location of critical equipment or life-saving medications.

With this new system, public health officials will be better prepared to manage crises, like pandemics, and proactively care for underserved populations through real-time data. Meanwhile, researchers would have access to unparalleled data, helping them find and develop new cures or treatments more quickly. This vision of healthcare is achievable if we put our hearts and minds behind the effort.

Healthcare and technology need each other

Many healthcare and technology companies have worked toward this reality for some time. This next era of healthcare digital transformation requires a broader, more collaborative effort. We must harness the power of massive infrastructure, technical expertise, and capabilities like AI. It’s not just about healthcare needing more technology, though. Technology also needs more healthcare expertise. Changing healthcare worldwide requires a profound understanding of how healthcare operates—how health data should flow based on the complex workflows and informational needs of different providers.

We know this vision won't be easy to achieve, but we’re at an inflection point. Now is the time to think big and find ways to use technology to completely change workflows, improve health equity, decrease the cost of care, and make it easier to deliver care. We need to accelerate our innovation and work together to make healthcare more open, connected, and accessible. That's our responsibility.