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by Cerner Corporation
Published on November 16, 2016

Cerner Chairman, CEO and Co-Founder Neal Patterson made a surprise appearance Wednesday at Cerner Health Conference and addressed an estimated 15,000 attendees following the keynote presentation of Dr. David Feinberg, the president and CEO of Geisinger Health System whom Patterson invited to address attendees in his place while he recovered from treatment for a soft tissue cancer diagnosis first announced in January.

Below is an excerpt from his extemporaneous remarks:

“It was on New Year’s of last year when I got the phone call that I had cancer. 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.”

“There are two stages of being a patient. The first stage is establishing a plan. The second stage is executing that plan, which takes a team of people who care.”

“We have incredible trust in our providers – we have to. But ultimately, we are at their mercy. Sometimes the caring is not always there, sometimes it’s been lost.” 

“I remember waiting four hours to get lab results. I asked a lady next to me in the waiting room how long she had been waiting, and her reply was seven hours. Seven hours! There’s no caring in that.”

“It’s not like you have one doctor, one surgeon, a radiation oncologist and a medical oncologist – it’s a team. It’s time for the patient to be part of the team. They have to be part of the team. We’re going to make it easier to care for us (patients).”

“I’ve got great news. I’m getting stronger and getting better daily, which is a great place to be.” 

“I’ve got a great leadership team surrounding me, so I can take time to get better. I won’t be traveling as much, which means I’ll be at Cerner more, making it better, making us better – for you.”

“The EHR needs to make medicine faster and safer, and there needs to be more participation from the patient. The industry’s not there yet. It’s still lacking and I know I was put in this position to make it better.” 

“This is what we’re going to do, we’re going to increase productivity, but also make being a patient a better experience, make them part of the team and then caring for us (patients) will be easier.” 

“We’ve been through the digitization of health care. Now we’re going to make being a patient a new experience.” 

“What I’ve done the last 35 to 40 years has been a privilege, but there’s a lot left to be done. We’re going to do it.”

Neal then told the audience that he had recently received good news about his diagnosis and plans to return to his full role in January, but with less travel.  

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