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Oracle engineering exec quits after tryst with health division

Reports suggest Don Johnson left after 6 months in charge of strategic unit

The head of Oracle Health engineering has abruptly left the business, according to reports.

Don Johnson, executive vice president, swiftly departed the software and cloud biz after little more than six months in the role.

Business Insider said two sources had told the publication of Johnson's departure. We have asked Oracle to comment.

The engineer was entrusted with roles vital to Oracle's strategic direction. After joining in 2014, he was charged with leading product strategy, engineering, and operations of Oracle's Cloud Infrastructure portfolio at a time when the company was desperate to drive growth in the face of AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.

Oracle had, in fact, levered him from a role as a technical leader at AWS after joining Amazon's cloud outfit in 2005.

But Johnson's more recent roles as leader of Oracle Health engineering is likely to attract attention. In June 2022, Big Red closed the purchase of Cerner Corporation, which builds electronic patient record software, in a deal worth around $28.3 billion.

Oracle founder and CTO Larry Ellison later announced he was planning to build "a unified national health records database" on top of "thousands of separate hospital databases."

"Together, Cerner and Oracle have all the technology required to build a revolutionary new health management information system in the cloud. That system will deliver much better information to healthcare professionals. Better information will fundamentally transform healthcare," he said in an online presentation.

However, some hospitals employing Cerner's technology have found it disruptive in all the wrong ways.

In July last year, US senators heard how computer errors following the go-live of a new Oracle Cerner electronic health records system harmed nearly 150 patients at a hospital in Washington state.

Oracle inherited a 10-year, $10 billion contract with the Department for Veterans' Affairs signed in 2018. The deal was to design a health records system for VA hospitals and communicate with a system that Cerner was installing for the US Department of Defense.

Speaking before senators, Mike Sicilia, executive vice president at Oracle, said Cerner and the VA had implemented system changes to reduce the errors. During the following six to nine months, with the approval of the VA and the DoD, Oracle was set to migrate the Cerner solution to an Oracle second-generation cloud infrastructure datacenter at no extra cost, he said.

"If something isn't working for caregivers or patients, we plan to fix it first and work out the economics later. Patients and providers will always come first. We won't let contract wrangling get in the way," he told senators last year.

However, in October, the Department of Veterans' Affairs announced it was delaying deployments of the Oracle Cerner electronic health record until June 2023 to address challenges with the system and make sure it is functioning optimally for veterans and healthcare personnel. ®

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