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Cerner CEO Neal Patterson dies at 67

Neal Patterson in 2009 (Cerner photo)

Neal Patterson, co-founder, CEO and chairman of health IT heavyweight Cerner, died today at the age of 67. According to the company, Patterson had “unexpected complications” from a recurrence of the soft-tissue cancer that caused him to take a yearlong leave starting in January 2016.

As the “unexpected” explanation suggests, the news comes as a bit of a surprise, since Patterson returned to work early this year. He had made a surprise appearance at the Cerner annual users’ meeting in November.

In another unexpected development, the North Kansas City, Missouri-based EHR vendor named Co-founder and Vice Chairman Cliff Illig to serve as chairman and interim CEO. During Patterson’s leave, President Zane Burke was the public face of the company. Burke gave me a long interview at CHIME last fall.

However, Cerner said in a statement that there has been a “longstanding succession plan” and that “the process to select a new CEO is nearing a conclusion,” suggesting that Patterson had intended to step down fairly soon.

“One of Neal’s enduring ambitions for Cerner was to build a visionary company, not just a company with a visionary,” Illig said in the statement. “He has done that. We have what I believe is the best management team in health IT, and we have associates who think as much about the future as they do the present. As a result, Cerner is well-positioned to have a pioneering impact on the provision of health care in the years to come.”

Patterson, Illig and Paul Gorup founded Cerner as PGI & Associates in 1979 to develop laboratory information systems. They changed the name to Cerner in 1984 and took the company public in 1986.

Cerner is now worth $21.7 billion, based on Friday’s closing price of $65.74 per share. It has become the largest private employer in the Kansas City area, the Kansas City Star reported.

 

July 9, 2017 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

IBM acquiring Epic or Cerner? I dunno

The “unconfirmed rumor of a huge acquisition” that HIStalk (a.k.a. the National Inquirer of health IT) tweeted about on Wednesday apparently is that IBM was going to acquire Epic Systems. Mr. HIStalk on Thursday expressed some reservations.

 

 

So am I. The announcement was supposed to happen Friday morning, which is right now (10 am EDT as I write this). IBM is in the Eastern time zone and Epic is in the Central time zone; for that matter, Cerner also is on Central time, and when you think “huge” in health IT, really only Epic and Cerner come to mind. If there were to be an announcement not involving anyone on the west coast, it probably would have happened already.

In any case, I’m told that IBM has been rather quiet with analysts of late. I actually haven’t been able to find the ages of Epic honchos Judy Faulkner and Carl Dvorak, but they’ve been at this for some 35 years. Cerner CEO Neal Patterson is 65 and has an ownership interest in the Sporting KC soccer team. He’s also been in the health IT business for 35 years.You’d think any or all of the three have to be thinking of retirement, or, in Patterson’s case, moving on to the hobby of running a pro sports franchise. Except that Faulkner seems to love what she does.

Cerner’s stock price has dipped a bit in the last couple of months, but it has risen by 259 percent in the past five years, according to Yahoo! Finance. It still seems as if the health IT business has plenty of room to grow, especially among the biggest players, who promise to be the biggest beneficiaries of consolidation on the lower end of the market.

Until I hear something more substantive, I am not buying the IBM-Epic rumor. IBM-Cerner seems a tad more likely, but I still need to hear more.

May 2, 2014 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.