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Neal Patterson, Cerner’s Co-Founder and CEO, Dies at 67

July 10, 2017
by Heather Landi
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On Sunday morning, Kansas City, Missouri-based Cerner Corporation announced that Neal Patterson, chairman and CEO, passed away at the age of 67 that morning due to unexpected complications that arose after a recent recurrence of a previously disclosed cancer.

"This is a profound loss. Neal and I have been partners and collaborators for nearly 40 years, and friends for longer than that,” Cliff Illig, Cerner co-founder and vice chairman of the board, now named chairman and interim CEO, said in a prepared statement. “Neal loved waking up every morning at the intersection of health care and IT. His entrepreneurial passion for using IT as a lever to eliminate error, variance, delay, waste and friction changed our industry.”

Cerner set up a tribute page to Patterson on its website where members of the health IT community can share their memories of Patterson and his impact on healthcare.

Patterson cofounded the company in 1979 with colleagues Paul Gorup and Illig. It has since grown into the world’s largest independent health information technology company with $4.8 billion in revenues in 2016 and more than 24,000 associates worldwide, according to Cerner.

 In the statement announcing Patterson’s passing, Cerner also announced Illig, who co-founded the company 38 years ago, and served as Patterson’s partner and close advisor, would serve as interim CEO. The company said the Cerner Board of Directors has had a longstanding succession plan in place. “The process to select a new CEO is nearing a conclusion,” the company stated.

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“One of Neal’s enduring ambitions for Cerner was to build a visionary company, not just a company with a visionary," Illig said. “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.”

Leaders in the health IT community have responded to the news by issuing statements and posting comments on Twitter, expressing their condolences and commenting on Patterson’s influence on the health IT industry.

Epic, a competing electronic health records (EHR) software company, released a statement from the company’s founder and CEO Judy Faulkner: “My deepest condolences go out to Neal’s family, friends, and colleagues. For nearly four decades, Neal’s vision and spirit helped transform the healthcare landscape in a way that will have a lasting impact for generations to come.”

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) also released a statement, praising Patterson as a “pioneer in the industry and a major contributor to the healthcare IT community.”

“Neal was an inspirational visionary who has left an indelible mark on industry through his tireless pursuit of better information at the point of care for patients in every setting,” Liz Johnson, CHIME Board chair and CIO of Acute Care Hospitals and Applied Clinical Informatics at Tenet Healthcare in Dallas, said in a prepared statement. “The work of Neal and Cerner will continue to positively impact healthcare for many generations to come. I had the privilege of knowing Neal for near 20 years. I will miss Neal; he made me laugh and think just a little harder about what could be better in this world.”

Marc Probst, chair of the CHIME Foundation Board and CIO at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, Utah, said, “Neal was a positive role model to me and represented all that is good about Cerner. It was his passion to do what is right for healthcare that allowed Cerner to succeed to the levels it has. I will personally miss his energy, his imagination, his ability to move great ideas forward, his honorable character and the honesty I always felt from him. Neal will be missed by many in the industry.”

“On behalf of the entire CHIME family, we are deeply saddened by the loss of Neal Patterson,” Russ Branzell, CEO of CHIME, said. “Neal was a legend in our industry and even more than that, a friend to all. Healthcare is a better and safer industry because of his lifelong commitment to improving care. The Patterson and Cerner family are in our thoughts and prayers.”

On Twitter, Allscripts CEO Paul Black wrote, “Neal Patterson, my friend and mentor, dedicated his life to improving care. His vision, passion and grit created HIT as we know it today.”

 

Farzad Mostashari, former National Coordinator for Health IT and founder of health IT company Aledade, wrote in reaction to news of Patterson’s passing, “His personal experience with healthcare made him a true advocate for patients’ rights to their own data.”

 

 

Karen DeSalvo, M.D., former Acting Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and National Coordinator for Health IT, commented on Twitter, “Heartbreaking. The world has lost one of its giants, with a giant heart. I will miss him. My condolences to his friends and family.”

 

 


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Why A.I. Will Never Replace Recruiters

September 12, 2018
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AI can be a great tool, but recruiters aren’t going away

I remember fear settling in like a big dark cloud when I opened my search practice in 2005 with all the dire predictions of how the Internet and all the online hiring websites were going to put recruiters out of business. Many articles were written on the demise of the recruiter as Monster.com would literally scare us out of business.

Then came other job opening aggregators like Indeed.com, ZipRecruiter and a whole host of other websites chasing HR gold as if there was a switch they could simply flip to eliminate the human touch that recruiters bring to the table with engaging candidates, only to be replaced by a text message alert or an email notification of all the new jobs that were now open. The only thing they were missing were qualified applicants.

These predictions never came true and all the prognosticators simply forgot what recruiters actually do every day that their technologies will never replace. CIOs need to remember the critical nature of hiring leaders and team members for key roles in their organization. Candidates need to be vetted and coached to listen to an opportunity to join your team when we call the candidates. You have to remember:

  • We talk with people. Yes, we use a cell phone, or now a VOIP phone, and actually engage in a dialogue with candidates about opportunities. It’s a novel approach—I get it.
  • We engage with people that will never look on those job posting sites because they are not looking for a new job. Period.
  • We contact passive candidates that up until our call were never going to leave their job because they are so focused on the now that they don’t even think about looking on a website for a job they are not even interested in.
  • We help clients and candidates come together on the right offer and provide two-way communication during the hiring process, so each party has a deep understanding of the other party’s point of view. Online sites—well you get the picture…
  • We hammer out the details of relocation packages with our clients and the candidates and their families to make sure the move is done smoothly to allow the family to begin their transition to a new city. It’s the personal touch that matters here because we are dealing with people’s lives.

Fast forward: The next wave of artificial intelligence (AI) products for hiring are cropping up everywhere and we are hearing similar calls for recruiters to give up and retreat as the latest algorithm and data analytics tools are able to speed up the hiring process supplanting recruiters. Within seconds, these tools are touting they can determine who the perfect candidates are based on the analytics and machine learning tools designed for hiring. Guess what? It won’t happen.

AI can be a great tool, but it falls dreadfully short of meeting hiring managers' expectations. It won’t wave a magic wand suddenly making hiring enjoyable and much quicker with the same quality as the work performed by most search firms. I’ve been in technology in some form or fashion for a very long time. I love technology and what technology can do to speed up productivity and actionable data I can use every day in the work we do. It’s awesome!

But to be clear, I’m not going away. I have seen this movie before and I am fairly certain I can tell you how it ends. The work recruiters do to find and recruit great talent is something humans must do.

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Cerner President Zane Burke to Step Down This Fall

September 10, 2018
by Heather Landi, Associate Editor
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Cerner president Zane Burke, who first joined the company in 1996, will step down November2, the Kansas City, Mo-based electronic health record (EHR) company announced today.

“Cerner has been a disruptive force of positive change across health care throughout its history, and I’m pleased with the accomplishments we’ve achieved together with our clients and the broader industry community,” Burke said in a statement. “Complex and evolving challenges remain, and Cerner is uniquely positioned to continue innovating for the good of consumers and health care providers.”

 “We thank Zane for his contributions to Cerner across more than two decades,” Cerner Chairman and CEO Brent Shafer said in a statement. “Zane leaves the company with a strong client focus and commitment to continued innovation, partnership and sustainable growth deeply engrained in our culture and leadership philosophy. I am very confident in the capabilities of Cerner’s strong and experienced leadership team.”

John Peterzalek, executive vice president of worldwide client relationships, will assume Burke’s responsibilities and the title of Chief Client Officer.

Since joining Cerner in 1996, Burke had a range of executive positions across sales, implementation, support and finance. He was named President in 2013 after leading Cerner’s client organization. Burke came to Cerner in 1996 from the consultant KPMG, and has held a number of positions in the company, including president of Cerner west from 2003 to 2011, and, more recently, executive vice president of Cerner's client organization.

During his five years as president, Burke has been involved in a number of significant deals, including playing an instrumental role in Cerner winning two massive EHR modernization contracts, first with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) in 2015, a $4.3 billion contract, and then just this past May, with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in a $10 billion contract.

During Burke’s tenure, Cerner also completed one of the biggest deals in healthcare IT history with the acquisition of Siemens healthcare IT business for $1.3 billion in 2014.

The Kansas City Business Journal reported on September 4 that Burke had exercised option to sell nearly $10 million in stock.

 

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Leadership Changes at HHS as CIO Transferred to New Role

August 21, 2018
by Heather Landi, Associate Editor
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Beth Killoran is stepping out of the role of CIO at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and is moving over to a new role at the Office of the Surgeon General, within HHS.

The news was first reported by Federal News Radio. In an email, a HHS official confirmed that Killoran, who stepped up to the HHS CIO role in July 2016, has joined the Office of the Surgeon General at HHS to develop a "comprehensive information systems strategic plan for the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.”

The HHS official also confirmed that Ed Simcox, the HHS Chief Technology Officer, will take on the added role of serving as the HHS Acting CIO, until a permanent selection is made. “Simcox has led multiple, large IT transformation efforts, both as an industry executive and consultant. As HHS’s CTO, he leads HHS’s efforts on enterprise data management, data sharing, technology-related healthcare innovation, and public-private partnerships,” the official said via email.

Simcox started as the HHS CTO in July after serving as acting CTO starting in May and deputy CTO since July 2017, according to Federal News Radio.

Killoran began working at HHS in October 2014, moving over from the Department of Homeland Security. At HHS, she has served as the acting Deputy Chief Information Officer and as the Executive Director for the Office of IT Strategy, Policy and Governance. The HHS official stated that Killoran has served in a number of high-level information technology positions at HHS, “providing leadership on a number of high priority projects.” Killoran also worked for the Department of the Treasury, where she provided IT infrastructure support and operations for over 20,000 employees across 1,500 locations.  During her tenure, she provided IT operational support in response to the 9/11 and Oklahoma City bombing events, the HHS official said.

Federal News Radio reporter Jason Miller reported that, during her time as HHS CIO, Killoran tried to move the agency forward in a number of areas through an updated strategic plan and a more aggressive approach to cloud adoption. “Recently, Killoran led a reorganization of the CIO’s office, naming Todd Simpson as the first chief product officer and promoting innovation,” Miller wrote.

Killoran becomes the fourth major agency CIO to be reassigned during the Trump administration, joining former Treasury Department CIO Sonny Bhagowalia, former Agriculture Department CIO Jonathan Alboum and FEMA CIO Adrian Gardner, according to Federal News Radio’s reporting.

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