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Monday Morning Update 7/10/17

July 9, 2017 News 1 Comment

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Neal Patterson, co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Cerner, died Sunday of cancer complications. He was 67.

Arthur Andersen consultants Patterson, Paul Gorup, and Cliff Illig founded the company in 1979.

Patterson’s “treatable and curable” cancer was announced in January 2016. His wife Jeanne is a metastatic breast cancer survivor.

Vice board chair Illig will serve as chairman and interim CEO. Cerner says its succession plan will allow it to name a new CEO shortly.


A gaunt Patterson made an unscheduled appearance at the Cerner Health Conference in November 2016, when he vowed to return to work in January 2017. He told the crowd, “I made a plan, got a strategy for treatment, and then went to execute it. I realized God had a sense of humor: he put me in a place undergoing an EHR conversion.”


UPDATE: a reader suggested that I set up a guestbook for folks to leave their thoughts and memories about Neal. You can send your thoughts here and I’ll run them later in the week.

Reader Comments


From Cab Heater: “Re: Twitter live-tweeting from conferences. ADA doesn’t allow.” The American Diabetes Association warns attendees of its Scientific Sessions that photography is not allowed, to the point that staffers monitored use of the #2017ADA hashtag and warned people individually to remove their tweets that contained photos of on-screen slides.  ADA says it is concerned about its legal obligations to grant-funded presenters, although it did not cite those concerns specifically, while others assume the sponsor-enriched ADA panicked over an incident last year in which a conference attendee tweeted out study results an hour before they were officially released, sending a drug company’s share price down.

HIStalk Announcements and Requests


Half of the relatively few Nuance users who responded to last week’s poll say they’ll send less business to the company following its malware-caused cloud services outage.

New poll to your right or here, following up on research showing that the more time people spend on Facebook, the worse they feel about themselves: how much time do you spend on Facebook each week? Click the poll’s Comments link after voting to explain.

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Readers funded the DonorsChoose teacher grant request of Ms. G in Virginia, who asked for hands-on math centers to replace her “tragically bare-bones and outdated” ones. She reports, “Having access to educational games like Shape Matching, Sorting, Patterning, Measuring, and Counting hands-on activities make learning both visual and social. We can introduce important science and social studies skills while practicing important life skills like turn-taking, waiting, losing, and much more. Thank you for providing such entertaining materials to my students!”

I’m in a bit of shock over Neal Patterson’s death, feeling similarly to when I heard that Steve Jobs had passed away. I never met Neal other than a brief encounter at some kind of Cerner CIO executive retreat that I once attended (and my impressions then were mixed, although he seemed to be enjoying himself and was pretty genuine), but I interviewed him a couple of times and found him to be thoughtful and patient even though he was clearly no-nonsense. Like most significant leaders who get big things done, the man who was raised on a pig farm had a reputation of being ruthless and egotistical, and certainly the company flourished in some part due to its “Vision Center” executive schmoozing strategy in which Patterson and other company bigwigs wooed customers into signing up without looking too closely beyond the big-picture promises and glossy PowerPoints that made them feel important, at least until the deal was done. Industry newcomers won’t recall the huge Wall Street hit Cerner took when Patterson decided to re-architect Cerner’s entire product line into Millennium in the 1990s, one of few times in corporate history where a ground-up software rewrite turned out to be the key positive event in a company’s future. Patterson took Cerner into the stratosphere, accomplishing the unusual in remaining in charge the whole time and reshaping the company’s strategy to grow consistently and to move into new markets tangential to healthcare IT. He was also loyal to Kansas City, passionately supporting local causes and creating a respected technology firm in an unlikely location. I certainly had a lot of fun with his famous “tick, tock” email that in retrospect was probably entirely appropriate given the circumstances even though it was uncomfortably (and in my mind, admirably) blunt for the CEO of a publicly traded company, but looking back on where he took Cerner and the industry, the “tick, tock” might now serve as a reminder to us all that our time here is limited. I’ve rarely said this about someone I didn’t know, but I will miss him.

This Week in Health IT History


One year ago:

  • Thoma Bravo announces plans to acquire Imprivata for $544 million.
  • England scraps plans to create and EHR-fed national database of patient information after a commissioned report criticizes its opt-out and consent policies.
  • NIH awards $55 million in grants to four universities and the VA to study the contributed information of “citizen scientists”, while Scripps and Eric Topol, MD get another $120 million to develop related apps, sensors, and recruitment processes.
  • CMS bans Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes from clinical laboratory involvement and stops all payments to the company.
  • HHS issues HIPAA guidance for ransomware attacks.
  • President Obama writes a JAMA paper describing the impact of the Affordable Care Act.
  • Evolent Health announces that it will acquire Valence Health for $145 million.

Five years ago:

  • University of Virginia settles its $47 million breach of contact lawsuit against GE Healthcare involving the acquired IDX, which UVA says botched its implementation.
  • E-MDs fires CEO Michael Stearns after what it said were employee accusations of inappropriate behavior, replacing him with board chair David Winn.
  • CSC begins laying off employees following the UK’s failed NPfIT project.

Ten years ago:

  • Dossia files a restraining order against Omnidmedx Institute after payment squabbles involving a personal health record development project.
  • Sage Software Healthcare President and CEO Andrew Corbin resigns.
  • ISoft shareholders vote to have IBA Healthcare buy the company.
  • A Kaiser Permanente study finds that outpatient visits and telephone calls are reduced when patients can email their doctor.

Weekly Anonymous Reader Question


Responses to last week’s question:

  • My job is 100 percent remote management position with no restrictions or specific requirements, other than having suitable internet connection that I pay for. There is an expectation that I work at least 40 hours a week and be available during normal business hours and reachable by cell evenings and weekends.
  • The only requirement is to just get your work done. Physical requirements are a quiet, private place to work.
  • None. I travel for work 75 percent of the time and it all blurs. Except weekends. Those are sacred.
  • I’m enjoying the phrasing of this question, partly because at least one major employer in the health IT sector is notorious for not ever allowing its employees to work from home, and you know it, and we all know it. I am out of health IT now, and don’t miss my former employer’s lack of flexibility.
  • Be here now- work regular hours and be available for questions, problems, issues. I am an integration analyst.
  • Sales job. No questions asked if you hit quota. I love it!
  • None. Why? Because we are so lean right now due to cuts and attrition that I think (our leader at least) is just grateful that we have stuck it out, especially since our positions require 24/7 call availability and you ain’t lived life to the fullest until you are in a three-person on-call rotation! If you want to get the most out of your people, flexibility is an absolute must. (ha ha, see what I did there?)
  • Epic application analyst for a large system. We can work from home two days per week, so most people take Mondays and Fridays (with the exceptions of the lucky ones who live close by and the unlucky ones whose teams had to have SOMEONE in the office on those days). A lot of teams require a “work from home” form submitted at the beginning and end of the day, with your goals/work and then what you actually accomplished. For some people, these are their most productive days. For others, not so much.
  • I must be available between 0900-1500, but can set my work hours otherwise. I must be available via phone/email/IM.  If a need arises, I must be willing to come in to the office. I’m a former IS clinician, now working in a new capacity, “Operations Support.”
  • No restrictions. I’ve been a full-time work from home employee since 1999 for three different employers. My role is a software product manager, thus I interact heavily with my development team on a daily basis to build software and drive value for our customers. I travel as needed for customer visits or corporate meetings, but mostly am at my desk. I’ve been fortunate to be given the trust of my employers and accordingly have built a reputation for delivering results, thus I’ve never been micromanaged. Time management and an isolated office (or headphones plus white noise) are keys to success while working in a home-environment.
  • I’m a remote employee, meaning every day is a work from home day. No restrictions or requirements. I’m in my office every day around 8 and don’t end my day until after 6 or 7 pm with occasional work on the weekends.
  • I work in data analytics for a large health system and our work from home day is Friday. On Fridays, we must be as available for Webex meetings as we would be for in-person meetings on a regular day in the office. We also can’t refuse to meet with a customer in-person just because it’s a Friday.
  • I’m a consultant. Our requirements are based on what the customer needs. If the customer I’m contracted with wants me to work 9-5 every day, then that’s what I’ll do. But most don’t care that much so I’m generally available from 8-5 in case something comes up, and I attend any meetings they want me to join, but otherwise I can set my own schedule as long as I bill 40 hours. For weeks I’m onsite, it’s certainly more stringent, but I just follow whatever their staff do.
  • I work in professional services. I can work from home two days per week. I need to have a presence in the office three days per week in order to retain my assigned workspace. I am required to work in a space where I can have customer calls without crying babies or barking dogs.
  • No kids under 10 at home without a sitter. Office with lockable door. Access to printer/scanner.
  • Availability for meetings via WebEx or conference call and ability to focus on project and strategy needs.
  • Just need to meet the billable hours requirements.
  • I work in data analytics. I’m allowed to work from home as much as I like. My employer expects me to get my projects done on schedule, and be easily reachable during business hours.


This week’s question: What software, app, or website is your secret weapon for increasing your professional or personal effectiveness? (excluding HIStalk from any possible consideration, please).

Last Week’s Most Interesting News

  • Patrick Soon-Shiong’s NantWorks buys controlling interest in the struggling , six-hospital Verity Health (CA) from its hedge fund owner.
  • The Department of Defense says Naval Hospital Oak Harbor (WA) will go live on MHS Genesis this month as the project’s second pilot site.
  • Heritage Valley Health System (PA) finishes bringing its systems online following a June 27 cyberattack.
  • VA officials warn that its $543 million RTLS project risks “catastrophic failure.”


July 11 (Tuesday) 1:00 ET.  “Your Data Migration Questions Answered: Ask the Expert Q&A Panel.” Sponsored by Galen Healthcare Solutions. Presenters: Julia Snapp, manager of professional services, Galen Healthcare Solutions; Tyler Suacci, principal technical consultant, Galen Healthcare Solutions. This webcast will give attendees who are considering or in the process of replacing and/or transitioning EHRs the ability to ask questions of our experts. Our moderators have extensive experience in data migration efforts, having supported over 250+ projects, and migration of 40MM+ patient records and 7K+ providers. They will be available to answer questions surrounding changes in workflows, items to consider when migrating data, knowing what to migrate vs. archive, etc.

Previous webinars are on our YouTube channel. Contact Lorre for information on webinar services.

Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock


Harris’s healthcare group acquires Warwick, RI-based population health management technology vendor Medfx, which it will operate as an independent business unit. 


Bloomberg reports that UnitedHealth Group and Vista Equity Partners are close to striking a deal to acquire The Advisory Board Company, with UnitedHealth proposing to take over the company’s healthcare business that drives two-thirds of its sales. Vista would take on ABCO’s education product line. The potential sale of Advisory Board was driven by an activist investor’s acquisition of 8.3 percent of shares early this year.


Fitness tracker and Bluetooth gadget manufacturer Jawbone, which once enjoyed a valuation of $3 billion, is shutting down. Jawbone’s founder is starting a new company called Jawbone Health Hub. Anonymous reports suggest the new company will focus on validating and reporting sensor-collected health information. Jawbone was rumored to be pivoting into a clinician-focused business in February 2017. Its failure was not a surprise given its series of strategic missteps it made as the public lost interest in me-too fitness trackers.


  • UnityPoint Health-Pekin (IL) will replace McKesson Paragon with Epic in April 2018.
  • Genoa Community Hospital (NE) will switch from Healthland to Athenahealth In October 2017.
  • Spectrum Health Pennock Hospital (MI) will implement Epic In May 2018, replacing Meditech.
  • Herrin Hospital (IL) replaced Meditech with Epic in June 2017.

These provider-reported updates are supplied by Definitive Healthcare, which offers a free trial of its powerful intelligence on hospitals, physicians, and healthcare providers.



Jeff Felton (McKesson) joins Providence Service Corporation subsidiary LogistiCare Solutions as CEO.

Government and Politics


Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin’s proposed Medicaid changes would require able-bodied recipients to work 20 hours per week when they sign up. He previously proposed that the work schedules of recipients be ramped up slowly, but now says the state’s Medicaid computer system can’t track such a phased approach.

A campaign finance watchdog organization accuses HHS Secretary Tom Price of illegally using $40,000 from his congressional campaign fund to create self-promotional materials to urge the Senate to confirm his appointment.




Steve Orlow, MD, MMI, CMIO at Lutheran Hospital (IN), criticizes publicly traded parent company Community Health Systems in his resignation letter for under-investing in the facility and for retaliating against a group of 10 doctors that had tried to buy the hospital from CHS. Orlow says the financial weakness of 137-hospital CHS threatened to drag the hospital down and says CHS had approved only of the 26 IT-requested Cerner EHR modules until the 10 doctors went public with their gripes, after which CHS approved all 26. Shares of CYH have dropped 28 percent in the past year and 82 percent since their June 2015 high. The company’s market cap is just over $1 billion. 


A woman (and nurse) who tweeted out a photo of the $231,000 hospital bill for her three-year-old son’s heart surgery – of which she credited the Affordable Care Act for leaving her with only  a $500 payment – receives Twitter death threats, arguments that her son’s life wasn’t worth it, and comments that her name Ali (short for Alison, “a white chick from New Jersey,” she explains)) means she must be a foreigner or a terrorist. On the upside, someone who read her tweet correctly diagnosed her son’s genetic condition. Some commenters noted the high prices charged by Boston Children’s Hospital, while others provided shrill political arguments or asserted that they weren’t going to pay for someone else’s medical bills.

Public updates from Nuance regarding its cloud systems outage have been infrequent as it updates customers via private conference call, but a July 6 notice says eScription LH is back online. 

I’m not sure why I find this interesting, but an article notes that England’s NHS would use about $260 worth of electricity to run a single MRI, but it’s using voltage converters to reduce costs.


CNBC profiles John Brownstein, PhD, a Harvard Medical School professor and epidemiologist who advises technology companies that are interested in moving into health-related areas.


Alabama’s state bar reprimands the attorney who in 2014 filed a highly publicized lawsuit claiming that a hospital amputated his client’s penis during a circumcision. The bar found that the lawyer hadn’t even looked at the medical records of his client before filing the lawsuit, and even after he reviewed the records that proved the allegations were improper, he filed another lawsuit.

Sponsor Updates

  • Learn on Demand Systems will exhibit at Microsoft Inspire July 9-13 in Washington, DC.
  • NVoq will exhibit at AHRA 2017 July 9-12 in Anaheim, CA.
  • Experian Health will exhibit at NAHAM Nebraska July 13-14 in Grand Islands.
  • QuadraMed, a division of Harris Healthcare, will exhibit at the FHIMA Annual Convention & Exhibit July 11-12 in Orlando.
  • ZappRx releases a new podcast, “Living with Systemic-Onset Juvenile Idiopathic RA.”
  • Aprima customer Mt. Olive Family Medicine Center wins the 2017 NCMGMA Practice of the Year Award.
  • Besler Consulting releases a new podcast, “How medical scribing is utilized at the point of care.”
  • CoverMyMeds will exhibit at McKesson IdeaShare 2017 July 12-16 in New Orleans.
  • EClinicalWorks will exhibit at the 2017 FSASC Annual Conference & Trade Show July 12-13 in Orlando.
  • FormFast publishes a new case study featuring Riverside Community Hospital.
  • InterSystems will exhibit at the Population Health Exchange July 10-12 in Colorado Springs, CO.

Blog Posts


Mr. H, Lorre, Jenn, Dr. Jayne, Lt. Dan.
More news: HIStalk Practice, HIStalk Connect.
Get HIStalk updates. Send news or rumors.
Contact us.


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Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Neal Patterson was brash, arrogant, and aggressive. Yet despite some of his less admirable personality traits, we have to admit that he did reshape the healthcare IT industry. Neal took a relatively small lab company and changed it into an innovative, expansive, and formidable enterprise. By changing Cerner, he inadvertently changed all of his competitors who designed, developed and sold hospital information systems – whether we knew it, or even liked it, we became better vendors because of Neal. I’ll never forget his full-page picture in the Wall Street Journal. And, yes, “tick, tock”, time runs out for us all. Rest in peace, Neal.

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Reader Comments

  • Bill O'Toole: Confirming first hand that Cape Cod Hospital was MEDITECH's first customer. My father, the Chief of Pathology, saw the i...
  • FormerCIO: Re JAMA article. How will access to my EHR data help me 'shop for high value health care services' and 'avoid the need t...
  • CommentsTwoWeeksLate: I'd be really disappointed if the "de-identified" data set contained full birth dates or zip codes. That doesn't seem t...
  • Code Jockey: Mr. H - this is a response to 'Really' but I'm not sure how to respond to his post. Also, this is a note for both you an...
  • Clarence: From my experience 7 years as an Epic employee and then 4+ years integrating 3rd party clinical content/software into EH...
  • meltoots: I take issue with one thing in this. The ACR AUC system is ridiculous for specialist physicians. I am a board certified ...
  • Really: Come on Code Junkie... Would any software company on the planet let you take their code, do a minor modification and ...
  • Code Jockey: Sigh.... Code Corrections - the origin of this conversation was a statement by someone that Epic clients were creating t...
  • WhatstheretoWonder: Fairly clear that the ambitions were crushed by unchecked capitalism and Republican waffling on doing the necessary chec...
  • Woodstock Generation: Re: Mr. HIStalk's response to Post-Acute Pat - Mr. HIStalk, you couldn't have said it better about today's healthcare i...

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