Timing is everything. That's a saying that enterprise software giant Oracle has apparently not taken to heart, because today, in the middle of hysteria by both sides of the reform debate, the company has unveiled Oracle Revenue Management and Billing for Health Insurance.
A B2B vendor might not care to tiptoe around health IT issues, since they don't really depend on consumer opinion to gain customers. But Oracle is treading on dangerous ground by catering to the financial needs of insurers just when they're everyone's favorite target for vitriol.
The new software is just one in a complete line of healthcare IT applications that Oracle offers. While most of these are basically the same as other Oracle products, today's release is a rules-based application tailored to managing insurance billing and revenues.
In a recorded webcast that accompanied the PR for the new product, Oracle representatives specifically mentioned increased spending on Medicaid and Medicare as something that the company wanted to profit from. If Oracle is intent on capitalizing on the attention that health IT is getting from the reform movement, this is probably the wrong way to go about it from a public relations perspective.
Despite poor timing, Oracle's offering might actually make things better for the customers of insurance carriers if it delivers on its promise of streamlining billing and payment operations. The less organizational overhead spent on activities than can be automated through the Web the better.
However, Oracle is one of several big corporations on the member roster of the Heatlhcare Information Technology Standards group (PDF list), an industry-led organization that some prominent analysts have accused of stifling health IT reform.
Whether there's cause to be skeptical of Oracle or not, releasing a specialized software package for healthcare payers today is walking a fine line.