Cerner Health Conference hears from company’s co-founder

Neal Patterson addressed the Cerner Health Conference on Tuesday at the Sprint Center.
Neal Patterson addressed the Cerner Health Conference on Tuesday at the Sprint Center.

Fourteen thousand Cerner associates and delegates to the 2015 Cerner Health Conference on Tuesday heard Cerner CEO Neal Patterson preach the gospel of putting health into health care.

“We need to keep the person in view of what we do or it goes for naught,” Patterson said at the Sprint Center, where he led a progression of speakers advocating the use of electronic health records to put care decisions and cost controls in the hands of consumers.

He reiterated his intent to use individual medical records — coupled with a layer of megadata about population health — to fix care and payment problems in the national health care system. And he repeated his vow that the health care information technology work being done by Cerner and other members of the CommonWell Health Alliance can eliminate the middleman role of insurance companies as we now know it.

Patterson invited a series of government, military and hospital system leaders to the stage to share the vision of interoperability of health records so patients, like his wife, who battled breast cancer, don’t have to carry shopping bags full of paper records from provider to provider.

Attaining true interoperability of patient health records is hard work, made harder, Patterson said, by what he calls “the black hole” of the health care information technology industry. That was a reference to Cerner’s prime competitor, Epic, which is a privately owned health IT company that hasn’t joined CommonWell.

Patterson said he hopes Epic will join the “open architecture” of the health care IT community.

Interoperability, several speakers said, is the means to improve data flow and gain more knowledge about what works best in medical care.

The conference session, which also served as a gathering for Cerner’s 10,000 Kansas City area employees, also was used to announce that Geisinger Health System signed on to Cerner’s population health management platform, HealtheIntent.

Alistair Erskine, chief clinical informatics officer at Geisinger, said the collaboration helps use “cloud-based big data analytics” to better manage patient health.

In interviews before Patterson’s remarks, Chris Miller, program executive officer for Defense Healthcare Management Systems, said the team headed by Cerner and Leidos survived a rigorous analysis to be chosen earlier this year to upgrade the U.S. Defense Department’s electronic health records system.

“As someone who works for the government, my job is to get the best value system,” Miller said. “We had to weight technical factors, products and costs. We drove to the decision that represented the best value for the government.”

The contract award, Miller said, also was “very much about security and open architecture.” It’s a huge challenge in that “we have to operate in every time zone, in every theater (including battlefields), as well as local communities. … We also have different populations — active duty plus families plus veterans.”

Jerry Hogge, deputy group president for Leidos Federal Health, said about 30 percent of the defense contract work is being subcontracted outside the core partnership of Cerner, Leidos, Accenture Federal Services and Henry Schein Dental. Thirty-three businesses are part of the software, engineering, testing and implementation chain that won the military contract.

The $4.3 billion, 10-year defense system contract isn’t expected to be fully implemented for seven years. Its first big interoperability test, though, aims to begin by the end of next year in the Pacific Northwest. The Seattle area test location was chosen because it has a big Army hospital, a Navy hospital and clinic, and an Air Force clinic — eight medical and dental sites in all.

The military system includes 205,000 health care professionals on staff and covers 9.7 million beneficiaries. It will be used in 55 hospitals, 352 medical clinics and 282 dental clinics and at 169 deployed sites, including five battlefield theater hospitals.

Diane Stafford: 816-234-4359, @kcstarstafford