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Cerner Taps Former Philips Executive Brent Shafer as new CEO

January 10, 2018
by Heather Landi
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Kansas City, Missouri-based health information technology company Cerner Corporation has tapped Brent Shafer as its new CEO and chairman of the board of directors, effective February 1.

Shafer succeeds Cerner cofounder and former CEO Neal Patterson, who passed away at the age of 67 in July due to unexpected complications that arose after a recent recurrence of a previously disclosed cancer. Patterson cofounded the company in 1979 with colleagues Paul Gorup and Cliff Illig and, for 38 years, Patterson also served as CEO and chairman. Cerner 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 the company.

Illig, who has served as interim CEO and chairman of the board since July 2017, will resume his role as vice chairman of the board, effective February 1.

Shafer, an experienced health IT executive, was previously CEO of Philips North America, which is the largest market for Netherlands-based Royal Philips. Philips North America’s health technology portfolio includes a broad range of solutions and services covering patient monitoring, imaging, clinical informatics, sleep and respiratory care as well as a group of market-leading consumer-oriented brands. According to a Cerner press release, for 12 years, Shafer played a key role in helping Philips develop and strengthen its health care focus, increase its profitability and grow its market share.  

Shafer was appointed CEO of Philips North America in February 2014. Previously, Shafer was CEO of the global Philips Home Healthcare Solutions business from May 2010 until May 2014. He has had additional senior leadership positions with Philips and at other companies, including GE Medical Systems, Hill-Rom Company, Inc., and Hewlett-Packard.

In a Cerner blog post, Illig provided more detail on the CEO selection process and touched on Patterson’s passing. “It’s impossible to arrive at this moment without having some thoughts about Neal. As Cerner’s cofounder, Chairman and CEO for more than 38 years, CEO succession was an important topic to Neal, and one about which he gave a great deal of private consideration. We discussed it many times over a number of years; it was a regular topic in his memos and discussions with Cerner’s Board. Neal took a broad view of the succession process, and he encouraged Cerner’s Board not to confine itself to a single conceptual model of succession. He reminded the Board that its objective was not to replace his unique expertise or perspective as founder, but to identify an individual well-suited to lead Cerner and the team in our next phase of growth as a company.”

Illig continued, “Neal believed that both internal candidates and external candidates should be considered, and that it might be possible to find an external candidate with skills and experience that would be complementary to those of the existing team. After a highly diligent and careful search and evaluation process, that is what Cerner’s Board has done.”

In a prepared statement, Shafer said, "For decades, Cerner has built its reputation on meaningful innovation and driving client value. This company’s history of remarkable, sustained growth is testament to a strong leadership culture, and I’m excited to celebrate many new milestones with Cerner associates around the world. My commitment to Cerner’s clients, shareholders and associates worldwide is that we will continue to be the catalyst for real and effective improvement across health care.”

Shafer was appointed CEO of Philips North America in February 2014. Previously, Shafer was CEO of the global Philips Home Healthcare Solutions business from May 2010 until May 2014. He has had additional senior leadership positions with Philips and at other companies, including GE Medical Systems, Hill-Rom Company, Inc., and Hewlett-Packard.

In a video message posted to Cerner’s website, Shafer said he comes from a long background in healthcare, starting on the provider side with Intermountain Healthcare. “When you think about healthcare worldwide, there is a tremendous opportunity to make a difference, as we see an aging population in North America, Europe and mature economies, and an increase in chronic disease, there is a need to deliver better outcomes at lower cost around the world.” He continued, “We are so well-positioned to deliver on this and to help our partners and our clients to really make a difference and improve healthcare. It’s an incredibly exciting time for us.”

Illig said in a statement, “Brent is a proven chief executive who has helped lead the growth and strategies of a complex, multinational organization over a number of years. He is committed to innovation, with extensive knowledge of health care, technology and consumer markets and an exceptional skill set that complements Cerner’s strong leadership team. Since our founding, Cerner has used the power of information technology to disrupt and improve health care. The addition of Brent to our leadership team positions Cerner well for our next era of growth.”

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