The UK vice president and general manager of Oracle Cerner, Distie Profit, has said that the NHS should never treat the implementation of electronic patient records (EPRs) as IT projects and instead should view them as a “transformation process improvement”.

Profit was speaking exclusively to Digital Health News at Oracle CloudWorld Tour in London last week, an event which looked at how companies are solving their most complex business challenges with the help of Oracle’s technology.

Oracle completed the acquisition of Cerner last year in a deal worth around £22.4 billion, signifying a big step into the health and care sector. As one of world’s leading EPR providers with already strong relationships within the NHS, Cerner’s EPR implementation was a key topic of conversation.

An opportunity rather than a challenge

When asked about some of the unique challenges that the NHS faces in implementing EPRs, Profit was quick to reject the idea that it is a challenge for trusts to have an EPR in place.

“I like to call them opportunities because I don’t necessarily think it’s a challenge, I think it’s a real opportunity,” she said.

“And I think the opportunity is to never treat it [EPR implementation] as an IT project. Everything needs to be seen as a transformation process improvement and that goes from for clinical, operational, financial, workforce management, every single component of it.

“If it’s treated as an IT project, the NHS will just continue doing old processes, so I think the biggest opportunity is in using technology and digitising any and all services right across health and care.”

She added that technology must be used as an “enabler” to refine the current process and way of working for clinicians so that better outcomes can be delivered for patients, with EPRs playing a key role in transforming the NHS’ way of working.

NHS success stories

Oracle Cerner have several NHS clients across the country who have enjoyed significant improvements both operationally and for patients, Profit said in her interview with Digital Health News.

The most prominent example she referred to was Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, which she said have “done a lot of really good things in thinking about and using the electronic health record across the entire Royal Free group” and thinking about how they “use it to digitise the care pathways to standardise care”.

Royal Free is an “example of success and being multifaceted in how they use the technology for  health, and they have seen enormous efficiency gains across their organisation in using the electronic patient record,” Profit added.

She also highlighted the great work and outcomes achieved by Imperial, Milton Keynes and Newcastle.  Oracle Cerner’s NHS clients are not just implementing EPRs, she added, but connecting multiple different systems to make sure there is enough data for clinicians and patients.

The Oracle impact

Profit was quick to point out that “the acquisition of Cerner is not Oracle’s first entry into healthcare” adding that they have been active in healthcare, just “not as robustly on the clinical side”. Although Cerner was well connected and had done good work with the NHS for decades before the acquisition, the opportunities and ability to make a difference have widened with the help of Oracle, and the ability to access additional resources, she said.

“It gives us the full end-to-end picture and ability to work with our clients and the individual trusts but also at a regional and a national level,” she told Digital Health News.

“We can now work not only from a clinical information perspective, but tying together clinical information, operational information, which is hugely helpful in reducing the backlog of financial information, as well as the supply chain information because Oracle works right across almost all of those areas.”

No comment on government EPR targets

In early 2022, the then health secretary Sajid Javid announced that the government had set a target for 90% of NHS trusts to have an EPR in place by December 2023, with the remaining 10% in the process of implementing them.

Profit refused to comment on government targets as Cerner and Oracle are just “one piece” of that and they are “definitely doing their part”. “A whole ecosystem of players needs to participate in this,” she added.

She said that following the pandemic “all the information wasn’t readily available that should and needs to be readily available and so I applaud the government for making it such a high priority and the time is now to do so”.

Following the acquisition of Cerner by Oracle last year, Profit believes Oracle Cerner “have a great relationship with the NHS, at all levels directly with our clients, as well as the regional levels and nationally”.

“I think Oracle Health and Oracle Cerner’s relationship will continue to grow and be really strong as we help surface up information and data,” she concluded.