Cerner CEO Neal Patterson, a ‘legend’ and ‘inspirational visionary,’ dies from cancer at age 67

Neal Patterson, who co-founded Cerner in 1979, died of cancer on Sunday.

Neal Patterson, co-founder and CEO of Cerner, and a recognized leader in the health IT industry, died on Sunday following complications from an ongoing bout with cancer. Patterson was 67.

Patterson announced he was diagnosed with soft tissue cancer last year. According to a statement from Cerner, the health technology mogul died due to “unexpected complications that arose after a recent reoccurrence” of the cancer.

“This is a profound loss,” said Cliff Illig, Cerner’s vice chairman of the board, who co-founded the company with Patterson. “Neal loved waking up every morning at the intersection of healthcare and IT. His entrepreneurial passion for using IT as a lever to eliminate error, variance, delay, waste and friction changed our industry.”

The company named Illig interim CEO on Sunday following Patterson’s passing. 

The health IT community mourned the loss of an institutional figure within the industry and an innovator that saw the value of EHRs early on. In a statement, Russ Branzell, CEO of the College of Health Information Management Executives (CHIME) called Patterson a “legend in our industry.”

"Neal was an inspirational visionary who has left an indelible mark on industry through his tireless pursuit of better information at the point of care for patients in every setting,” added Liz Johnson, CHIME board chair and CIO of Acute Care Hospitals and Applied Clinical Informatics at Tenet Healthcare in Dallas. “The work of Neal and Cerner will continue to positively impact healthcare for many generations to come.”

On Twitter, representatives from Allscripts and anthenahealth, as well as other executives at Cerner, weighed in on Patterson’s influence.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s chief innovation officer tweeted his condolences, while Karen DeSalvo, former national coordinator for health IT, called Patterson’s passing “heartbreaking.”

Patterson and Illig co-founded the company in 1979. The company hit its stride in 2009 when the federal government mandated the use of EHRs. Last year the company took in $4.8 billion in revenues.

Patterson helped make Cerner one of the largest EHR vendors on the market. Last month, the company was selected by Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin to replace VistA. Years earlier, the Department of Defense picked Cerner to upgrade its EHR systems.