Free Healthcare IT Newsletter Want to receive the latest news on EMR, Meaningful Use, ARRA and Healthcare IT sent straight to your email? Get all the latest Health IT updates from Neil Versel for FREE!

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.

Health informatics pioneer Larry Weed dies at 93

Lawrence L. Weed, M.D., a pioneer in the world of health informatics and organization of patient information, has died at the age of 93. Weed passed away in Burlington, Vermont, on June 3 after a fall two weeks earlier, his son Lincoln said.

Weed created the who created the problem-oriented medical record (POMR) and the subjective, objective, assessment, planning (SOAP) format of progress notes that became ubiquitous. He had advocated for what now is known as clinical decision support for at least 60 years, talking often about “coupling” patient problem lists with medical knowledge that changes often.

“The unaided mind does not know what data to collect, and does not see many of the significant relationships buried in whatever data are collected,” Weed said in a 2004 story I wrote for Health-IT World, a former spinoff of Bio-IT World. Thus, according to Weed, paper records were inferior to computerization — and they were half a century ago.

While at the University of Vermont in 1976, Weed co-developed an early electronic medical record called the Problem-Oriented Medical Information System, or PROMIS.

In 1991, the Institute of Medicine report, “The Computer-Based Patient Record:  An Essential Technology for Health Care,” (revised 1997) said that the problem-oriented medical record “reflects an orderly process of problem solving, a heuristic that aids in identifying, managing and resolving patients’ problems.”

In a seminal 1968 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, Weed wrote:

Since a complete and accurate list of problems should play a central part in the understanding of and management of individual patients and groups of patients, storage of this portion of the medical record in the computer should receive high priority to give immediate access to the list of problems for care of the individual patient and for statistical study on groups of patients.”

To this end, Weed developed a system of “problem-knowledge couplers,” and founded PKC Corp. in 1982 to market his idea. The company landed a series of government contracts, but struggled to catch on in the public sector. Weed was forced out by investors in 2006, and PKC was sold to consumer health company Sharecare — founded by WebMD founder Jeff Arnold and TV doctor Mehmet Oz, M.D. — in 2012.

Weed described the framework of problem-knowledge couplers in a 1994 article in the journal Medical Interface.

A true Renaissance man fond of quoting Francis Bacon, Tolstoy, Copernicus, Galileo and other celebrated philosophers, Weed was known as a brilliant educator, deep thinker and an engaging speaker. At the age of 89, he commanded the stage for a good 75 minutes at the HIMSS13 Physicians’ IT Symposium, and received two standing ovations.

“The worst, the most corrupting of all lies is to misstate the problem. Patients get run off into the most unbelievable, expensive procedures … and they’re not even on the right problem,” Weed said during that memorable presentation in New Orleans.

“We all live in our own little cave. We see the world out of our own little cave, and no two of us see it the same way,” he continued, explaining the wide deviation from standards of care. “What you see is a function of who you are.”

Lincoln Weed lamented that health IT companies have not always paid attention to these ideas. “The informatics community hasn’t really caught up to my father’s work,” the son said. “It’s not about technology. It’s about standards of care.”

The problem-oriented medical record is a standard for organizing information in a record. Couplers are standards for collecting data to generate recommendations based on the ever-changing body of medical knowledge, according to Lincoln Weed.

Some of Larry Weed’s ideas did catch on, notably, the SOAP note. However, some have recently rethought that format for the digital age, swapping the first two and last two element to create the APSO note. Weed defended his approach in 2014.

Weed stayed active up until his last day alive, according to Lincoln Weed. The day Larry Weed died, he discussed a poorly adopted National Library of Medicine personal health records project with sons Lincoln and Christopher. Lincoln recalled that his father said the NLM tool needs to let patients enter their own health data.

“I’m hopeful that the NLM is close to jumpstarting that process,” Lincoln Weed said. “Dad died with more optimism than he had had in a long time.”

Indeed, it could be argued that Weed was a founding father of patient empowerment. Back in 1969, Weed wrote a book called “Medical Records, Medical Education, and Patient Care.” In that, he said, “patients are the largest untapped resource in medical care today.”

Lincoln Weed said that the late Tom Ferguson, M.D., who founded the journal Patient Self-Care in 1976, “thought Dad was one of the originators” of the empowered patient movement.

With patient-generated data and now genomic information making its way into clinical practice, a system for organizing medical records is more necessary than ever, Lincoln Weed said. Equally important, he said, is a computerized system for matching the patient problem list with all known, relevant information to address specific problems — couplers.

“I’m glad Dad has left me with these things to work on,” said Lincoln Weed, a retired attorney who co-authored “Medicine In Denial” with his father in 2011.

Weed, who earned his medical degree from Columbia University in 1947, is survived by five children, a sister, two grandchildren and two step-grandchildren, according to the Burlington (Vermont) Free Press.  He was preceded in death by his wife, Laura, a physician herself who died in 1997.

Weed’s public memorial will focus on his lifelong love of classical music. His children are planning a memorial concert on Sept. 17 at 4 p.m. Eastern time at Charlotte Congregational Church, 403 Church Hill Rd, Charlotte, Vermont, according to the Burlington Free Press.

Here is a video of Weed from a well-known grand rounds he presented in 1971. It was unearthed by a Weed disciple, Art Papier, M.D., of clinical decision support vendor VisualDx.

June 18, 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.

Condolences to some well-known people in health IT

It’s been a sad couple of weeks for at least four people I know in and around health IT, and I want to send personal condolences to them and their families.

On March 26, Dr. Mark Frisse, the Accenture Professor of Biomedical Informatics at Vanderbilt University, lost his wife of 35 years, Catherine Loretta Walsh Frisse, who, according to an announcement posted on Dr. Frisse’s personal website, lost her battle with breast cancer after putting up a strong fight for two decades. Mrs. Frisse was a teacher, volunteer and philanthropist in the St. Louis area, as her husband and daughter both attended Washington University School of Medicine and the family still lived near St. Louis, despite Dr. Frisse’s Vanderbilt job. (I am a Wash U. alumnus myself, though that was for an undergrad degree, not at the prestigious med school.)

On March 29, Dr. Bill Hersh, chair of the Department of Medical Informatics & Clinical Epidemiology at Oregon Health & Science University, lost his father-in-law, retired Chicago Tribune sports editor Cooper Rollow.

Also, Sheila Teasdale, retired editor of the journal Informatics in Primary Care and a former chair of the International Medical Informatics Association’s Primary Care Working Group, is mourning the loss of her father. J.D. Kleinke, who helped found Healthgrades and Solucient and now is a healthcare business strategist, economist, author and columnist, is doing the same for his mother.

Please join me in expressing sympathy for their recent losses.

April 5, 2013 I Written By

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

Founder of British interactive patient sites dies

The driving force behind popular British interactive patient sites HealthTalkOnline and YouthHealthTalk has died.

Dr. Ann McPherson, 65, died May 28 after a four-year struggle with pancreatic cancer. Dr. McPherson, a general practitioner at Oxford University, came up with the idea for a patient-experience site 15 years ago while fighting her own battle with breast cancer, E-Health Insider reports.

Dr. McPherson and Dr. Andrew Herxheimer, a former editor of the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, founded predecessor site DIPEx in 2001, long before the phrase “health 2.0” gained acceptance. Their organization, the DIPEx Charity, divided the site into HealthTalkOnline for adults and YouthHealthTalk for teens, children and their families in 2008. Numerous British celebrities, including actor Hugh Grant and Radiohead singer Thom Yorke, have become public supporters of the charity.

She co-authored the 1987 book, Diary of a Teenage Health Freak, which has sold more than 1 million copies worldwide, according to an obituary in The Guardian. The book spawned a TV show in the U.K. in the early 1990s, and later, the still-active Teenage Health Freak Web site.

Dr. McPherson won the BMJ’s 2011 Healthcare Communicator of the Year award in April.

 

June 5, 2011 I Written By

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

RIP John Glass of CHIK Services

I’ve just learned that John Glass, a founding director of Australian health IT publishing and consulting firm CHIK Services, died last Tuesday as a result of complications from acute leukemia.

According to the company: “He will be greatly remembered for his larger than life persona and tenacious pursuit in bridging the divide between the health and information and communication technology sectors as one of the founding Directors of CHIK Services.

“His interest in furthering the e-health agenda never waned – he was still sending through articles and ideas from his hospital bed little more than a week ago – and he will be enormously missed by all those at CHIK and involved e-health generally.”

I’d like to take this opportunity to extend my condolences to John’s widow, Sally, and the rest of the Chik crew. They are well known even in the U.S. health IT community, as they have made the long trek to America for the annual HIMSS conference for as long as I can remember.

July 4, 2010 I Written By

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

Edward M. Kennedy, 1932-2009

As you’ve likely heard, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) died tonight of a malignant brain tumor at age 77.

I’m thinking that his death may be the impetus to get health reform passed this year. Whether that means liberals will try to ram something through without GOP support or Kennedy’s friends on the Republican side like Orrin Hatch will force a bipartisan resolution, I have no idea. But this will be Teddy’s legacy.

August 25, 2009 I Written By

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

Steven Heusing, IMIA executive director, dies at 64

Canadian medical informaticist Steven Heusing, executive director of the International Medical Informatics Association, died Sunday. He was 64. Mr. Heusing had been in declining health for a number of years and reportedly had had two kidney transplants.

Mr. Heusing, a resident of Edmonton, Alberta, was founding president of COACH, Canada’s Healthcare Informatics Association and co-founder of the Canadian Healthcare Information Technology Trade Association (CHITTA), now called ITAC Health. He was editor and publisher of Healthcare Information Management & Communications Canada, the official journal of COACH and ITAC Health.

To recognize his service, COACH established the Steven Heusing Scholarship in 1999 for students in Canadian health informatics or healthcare information management programs.

Current AMIA President Dr. Reinhold Haux, director of the Peter L. Reichertz Institute for Medical Informatics at the University of Braunschweig Institute of Technology and Hannover Medical School in Germany, issued this statement:

Steven Huesing was an outstanding person and professional. As Executive Director of the International Medical Informatics Association, he has for many years provided significant and global contributions to the progress of our field. It is through his tireless work that IMIA has developed into the leading international association that it is today. Since the start of his career, in the 1960s, he has been a pioneer and ambassador to the advancement of computers and information technology in healthcare. Among the many recognitions of his contributions, he was honoured for his exceptional work with the prestigious Canadian Health Informatics Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Additionally, Michael Martineau posted his thoughts on the eHealth Musings blog.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

April 13, 2009 I Written By

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