Health care software maker Cerner names Zane Burke its president

Zane Burke on Wednesday was named president of Cerner Corp., the health care software company that is the largest private employer in the Kansas City area.

Burke, 47, assumes the title from company co-founder Neal Patterson, 63, who retains the titles of chairman and chief executive officer.

Patterson had absorbed the president’s post after Trace Devanny left the position in 2010.

“There are very few people who understand the extensive role information technology is playing in health care worldwide as well as Zane,” Patterson said in a prepared statement announcing the appointment.

A company spokesman said that Burke’s promotion did not represent a formal succession plan announcement for the company and that Patterson’s CEO role was not affected.

Management consultants typically recommend against one person holding the titles of chairman, president and CEO. Cerner said it was always intended that Patterson serve only temporarily as president.

“I didn’t bat an eye when I saw the announcement,” said Cerner stock analyst Greg Bolan of Sterne Agee & Leach in Nashville, Tenn. “Zane is an operator. Neal is a thought leader. You have Zane in the trenches, and Neal is more of the guy who’s 10,000 feet in the air, adjusting as to where Cerner needs to be in five to 10 years.”

Bolan, who has a neutral rating on Cerner stock, said giving the president’s role to Burke made sense given Burke’s experience.

Richard Close, a stock analyst at Avondale Partners LLC in Nashville who has followed Cerner since 2004, said he views Burke’s promotion as a positive.

“Overall, Cerner been very steady from a management standpoint,” said Close, who has a buy recommendation on Cerner.

Burke, who joined Cerner in 1996, has held several executive positions at the company, most recently as executive vice president of client organization, with chief responsibility for client relationships. He also was president of Cerner West from 2003 to 2011.

Before joining Cerner, Burke worked at KPMG LLP, where Cerner was one of his clients. Burke grew up in Hutchinson, Kan., before earning an accounting degree and an MBA from Kansas State University.

Burke said in a prepared statement that he welcomed the job because “I believe no company is better positioned than Cerner to benefit from the current trends in health care.”

Those trends include computerizing patient health records.

The company provides health information technology to about 10,000 hospitals, doctor’s offices and other medical facilities around the world.

Hewlett-Packard recent announced that it had obtained a major contract from Cerner to upgrade some of Cerner’s data analytics system, a crucial component to help Cerner stay competitive with its electronic health records software.

The rapidly expanding company, which ranks second to privately held Epic Systems in the health care information technology field, is planting a large footprint in the Kansas City area.

Cerner has office campuses at its North Kansas City headquarters, at its new around-the-clock support center in Kansas City, Kan., and in the former Marion Laboratories facility in south Kansas City. Cerner co-founders Patterson and Cliff Illig also recently announced plans to develop a large multi-use project on the former Bannister Mall site.

The company employs 9,000 in the Kansas City area, part of its global workforce of 13,000. In development plans submitted to the city, additional employment of up to 15,000 was projected for the Bannister office campus.

The publicly held Cerner is traded on the Nasdaq under the CERN symbol.