In Larry Ellison’s keynote at Cloud World, he laid out an ambitious plan for developing a national – if not global – electronic health records databases so patients and providers can go to one place to access all of their health records. Oracle’s ability to successfully execute on the plan as part of its overall industry applications strategy may very well be a harbinger of Oracle’s future in the competitive Customer Experience (CX) space.
Over the years Oracle has grown its footprint across sales, marketing, and service automation technologies both organically and by acquisition, but has struggled to maintain its market share against Salesforce and others despite ongoing investments in areas such as Unity, Oracle’s Customer Data Platform (CDP), the Redwood user interface (UI), Artificial Intelligence, (AI) and automation.
All of the major Customer Relationship Management (CRM) vendors have moved to industry solutions as a means to reduce the cost and risk to deploy and accelerate value for customers. Oracle has announced CX for the communications, financial service, health care, high tech, manufacturing, automotive, retail, government, and utilities sectors over the past few years and announced new Unity AI models designed for specific industries at Cloud World.
Oracle’s big bet on health care is doubling down on an industry strategy that focuses on data privacy and security thanks to the Autonomous Database, end-to-end automation of processes that extend beyond the footprint of its CX competitors, and the ability to understand and engage with individual customers in real-time with Unity.
In Ellison’s keynote he talked about the ideal world of patient engagement, where patients are comfortable sharing information, providers engage with them based on real-time events and triggers in a personalized way via whatever channel the patient prefers, and security and privacy are built in to applications that use the data for intelligent patient management. What he didn’t mention was how Oracle’s existing CX investments are part of the IP and strategy for Oracle’s ambition in health care.
Oracle’s healthcare venture started before Cerner. Oracle closed its $28.3 billion acquisition of Cerner in June, but started developing its health care applications before the acquisition. Oracle developers created the “V-safe” after-vaccination health checker for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention using the Oracle APEX low-code development tool, Oracle Analytics, and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. Patients could register with v-safe to report side effects to the vaccine, and the CDC’s ability to rapidly gather data enabled it to better understand how different populations would respond to the vaccines.
This is important because of the speed with which it was developed, the scale of its use, and the patient trust it requires (according to Oracle, more than 150 million US vaccine records were voluntarily shared by patients). Extrapolating this model to a global, or even national, electronic health records system would show that Oracle had cracked the code for the reliability and security - and patient trust - needed for health care as well as the adoption hurdles to any new customer records system. If Oracle can accomplish it with the most sensitive customer information – healthcare records – it’s setting up a model that can be adapted for personalized customer engagement in other less sensitive industries and highlight the potential for solutions like Unity to make real on the promise of a complete customer 360.
A big part of Oracle’s CX strategy is its position as part of the overall Oracle Cloud footprint, enabling Oracle to more easily automate end-to-end processes that span beyond sales, marketing, and service. Oracle is betting on health care – among other verticals – in this strategy, as reflected in a number of its Cloud World announcements including:
- Industry-specific planning solutions for Oracle Cloud Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) designed to enable health care organizations to optimize planning and forecasting to reduce costs and improve patient care.
- Specialized solutions for Oracle Supply Chain Management (SCM) to drive down supply chain costs for health care organizations.
- Oracle Cloud Human Capital Management (HCM) solutions for health care, with industry-specific capabilities to attract and develop talent and optimize staffing and scheduling.
- A new artificial intelligence (AI) model for Oracle Unity, to enable health care companies to use capabilities like Next Best Promotion to better price and promote solutions to customers.
The relative success of V-safe doesn’t guarantee Oracle’s global, or even national, patient database will come to fruition. A national health care records system has been attempted before. Google shuttered its initial Google Health platform, launched in 2008, in 2012; Microsoft’s closed its HealthVault system in 2019. Apple has announced a growing number of hospitals in the US, UK, and Canada supporting its Health Records iPhone application.
The timing may be right for broader adoption of a national or global system. The pandemic raised recognition of the need for global warning networks for diseases, and there’s now more of an appetite for a connected global health record and related vaccine and other tracking systems. Cerner’s existing position in many large health-care operations also gives Oracle a stronger entry point than it had before.
However, selling a national health records system is less about selling to providers than it is about getting individual users to trust Oracle with their data. On the positive side, Oracle’s Autonomous Database means fewer opportunities for human-error introduced vulnerabilities – but that’s a technical argument that may be hard for many to grasp. Oracle’s detractors will point to its Oracle Data Marketplace to argue that Oracle is in the data brokering, not data privacy, business. As consumer concerns about data privacy continue to grow, it’s incumbent on Oracle as a database leader to take a leadership position on the ethical use of data and show how its technology helps customers ensure legal and ethical use.
On the CX front, there is more that Oracle can do to prove the value of its approach to the marketplace, including highlighting the role and value of Oracle Unity in Oracle’s health records and healthcare efforts, showing how its AI models can be applied to service scenarios (not just marketing), and demonstrating with concrete examples of how its end-to-end automation approach reduces cost and increases efficiency for customers. Oracle’s e-commerce announcement linking financial institutions and shippers is one example of the latter, but Oracle needs more widespread customer examples to show how its suite approach delivers value in practice. There is untapped potential, for example, in the links between Oracle’s HCM and Employee Experience (EX) solutions and CX, from applying marketing journey concepts and personas to EX to training and coaching agents in service scenarios.
Beyond the tech, Oracle will need to bring the ecosystem on board. As Salesforce, ServiceNow, and others push big initiatives to build communities of learners to skill up and implement their products, Oracle will need skilled champions with deep industry and CX understanding pushing Oracle products.
Recent changes at Oracle have led some to question Oracle’s commitment to CX. (See Jon Reed’s assessment here for his view on this subject.) But Oracle’s healthcare ambitions sound much like an industry-focused model for data-driven customer engagement when those customers are patients.
Communicating how Unity and other developments in CX are part of the overall value proposition for Oracle’s healthcare push, and highlighting related areas where Oracle has been investing under the covers in CX, would be a good step to quell those concerns.
Starting to talk – now - about how Oracle’s investments and learnings in health care can easily translate to CX solutions in less-regulated industries, and how quickly Oracle might advance them in the market, could put Oracle back on the CX competitive map.