Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cerner Health Conference

Living here in Kansas City everyone “knows” or more accurately claims to know something about Neal Patterson.  As the iconic entrepreneur walked by my second row seat and took the stage for his Keynote at the Cerner Health Conference,  I wasn’t sure what to expect.    I tried to brush aside all the good and bad I’ve heard and just listen to see if I could connect to him and Cerner.  

I expected a politician – slick with perfectly constructed and managed content.  A more accurate description is comfortable, confident and owning the content.   Dressed casually, he appeared more approachable than intimidating. His speech style was more conversational than choreographed.  The “picture in his head” is much more detailed than what he could share in the time frame.   He was funny and entertaining – much more than I expected.  I take time to describe him because when you read about what he said I want you to see this picture of him.   These are sound bites with my interpretation. 

“We must separate Health and Care”
Cerner, throughout the conference, delivered the next frontier of their ambitious goals: Managing health as opposed to maintaining a sick society.   The Solutions Gallery Floor was split into three areas Foundation, Organizational Excellence, and Community.  When you entered the solutions gallery floor the first thing you see is Foundation.  Many times when I have talked to people about being able to interpret data we have to step back and look at the way it’s collected and the model in which it is stored.  The Foundation is representing the “Care”.  How hospitals document and gather the information that improves the care of the patient.   Though the pods were a little fragmented and hard to see the vision of how they all played together the message was one foundational platform to collect data.

If you think about the future of care it’s built on the foundation of data.  Think of it this way – if you build your house on sand there is no way to maintain the stability of the structure.  If you build your house on a solid foundation then expansion and stability are givens.

Across from Foundation is the next frontier the “Health” what Cerner noted as Community.  I thought the visual was quite nice – the past was facing the future.   We MUST start managing the wellness the health of not only an individual but of entire populations. 

“What Steve Jobs did in regards to music – Cerner is doing with health data”
I found this statement extremely bold, but accurate. The challenge with most leaders is to be able to drive vision, growth and domination in an industry you are often seen as prideful.  While I agree with some of the pundits – a self comparison to the actions of Apple, the benchmark for transformational innovation, is not the most humble of statements – the only thing I would throw back – isn’t it pretty accurate?   Cliff and Neal took the documentation of processes and have systematically transformed it into a billable standard. And amazingly have driven such change into the industry that the government has seen the benefits of this documentation and will now subsidize their growth through mandates to their core customers.
The thing I would challenge Cerner on is this – Apple has the unique ability to take a complex idea and make it simple to use, visually appealing, and extremely easy to understand.  On the BI side - I didn’t quite see that in Cerner yet – not saying they won’t get there.   They have built a firm foundation – collection and storage of data.  The hard part is the presentation of the data in a useable manageable format. 

The center of their Solutions Gallery was the Organizational Excellence.   I stopped in to see their dashboards and examine their process.   My take away and I hope this isn’t too harsh – they are just not there yet….a little bland and canned.   My encouragement to them – the people who will be successful in the BI space are those who can take the data and do what Neal told the audience Cerner will do “We will future proof your organization” he said that in regards to how the government will change reimbursement based on the collected data.   Somehow you have to take your incredibly complex data set and deliver it to leaders in the hospital in useable fashion.   Most people are not data junkies.

I will say this as a note to the other EMR companies – my money is on Cerner to do this first and from being first they will build the standard.  If you are not all ready in the space you are all ready behind and if you are looking at only the EMR data set – you won't catch them.

The final two statements hit home for me and if you listened to what Neal Patterson was saying they were actually quite revealing to who he is as a person.  

“We are all mortal with a huge instinct to survive.”

There is an underlying ambition to extend life and improve the quality of life.  While not the most personable way to put this thought to the audience – it was a directive.   From a technical standpoint this is the push to build PHR and build it well.  Driving home the point that we must manage health creating a foundational platform like Cerner has done in the “Care” space for the “health” space.  Fixing PHR.  

 “If we know something and we know how to predict it in the future why aren’t we doing it?”

I am not sure if the crowd heard it, but I heard frustration in this statement.   When you hold great power, knowledge, data……when you can see the future and you are pulling those around you to understand it…..when your mind understands that all the pieces of the puzzle are there and all we have to do is put them together….. it’s almost excruciating.  It’s a blessing and a curse to have a vision. 

When that type of driving vision is mixed with a personal experience it intensifies in a way that many won’t understand.  Neal’s top 4 things he wanted to accomplish in this decade – one was “Save Linda’s Life”.    Linda, his sister in law, died from Sepsis.    Can you imagine being one of the most powerful people in healthcare and losing a loved one to a preventable medical error?   Knowing that the data contained in your servers holds a key to change possibly annihilate this and other preventable medical errors?   With great understanding, knowledge, and blessing comes great responsibility - great responsibility engages great pressure.

In closing - Cerner is not Disney World – not what I would describe as “friendly” place but they are knowledgeable and they are incredibly capable and powerful.  They will find answers and save lives.   I am not sold on them as an organization, but after this speech I do see that the leader has passion and purpose.