Cerner's Neal Patterson makes surprise speech: Why he says 'God has a sense of humor'

Cerner Cofounder Neal Patterson invited Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger Health System President and CEO David Feinberg, MD, to keynote this year's Cerner Health Conference in Kansas City, Mo. But no one expected what happened after Dr. Feinberg left the stage.

Mr. Patterson surprised everyone — 15,000 conference attendees and Cerner's own public relations team — when he made an appearance at the event Wednesday, according to The Kansas City Star.

While on stage, Mr. Patterson discussed his personal journey through the healthcare system. In January, he announced he was diagnosed with a soft tissue cancer.

"It was on New Year's of last year when I got the phone call that I had cancer," Mr. Patterson said at CHC yesterday. "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."

Due to his experiences, Mr. Patterson called for an improvement in healthcare IT. "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," he said. "It's still lacking and I know I was put in this position to make it better."

During his speech, Mr. Patterson also touched on the challenges in today's healthcare environment and called upon attendees to rethink how they provide care.

"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," Mr. Patterson said. "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."

As he wrapped up, Mr. Patterson said he's "getting stronger and getting better daily," and that he hopes he'll return to Cerner in his capacity in January.

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