Cerner CEO Neal Patterson dies from cancer complications

Neal Patterson, the co-founder and CEO of health IT giant Cerner, died July 9 at age 67, according to a company statement.

The announcement said Patterson’s death was due to “unexpected complications” after a recurrence of the soft-tissue cancer he had previously disclosed publicly in January 2016. Taking over as interim CEO and chairman will be company co-founder Cliff Illig.

“This is a profound loss. Neal and I have been partners and collaborators for nearly 40 years, and friends for longer than that,” Illig said. “Neal loved waking up every morning at the intersection of health care and IT. His entrepreneurial passion for using IT as a lever to eliminate error, variance, delay, waste and friction changed our industry.”

The two founded the company in 1979 and grew it into one of the dominant forces in the health IT industry, with 24,000 employees and the highest market share based on revenue related to electronic health record (EHR) hardware, software and services. In 2012, he joined the Forbes 400 list as one of the richest men in the United States.

Many organizations gave their condolences on Sunday, including many in Kansas City, where Cerner is the city’s largest private employer and where Patterson’s impact was felt beyond the business realm, as he was one of five co-owners of Sporting Kansas City, the region’s Major League Soccer franchise.

“On behalf of the entire CHIME family, we are deeply saddened by the loss of Neal Patterson,” Russ Branzell, CEO of College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), said in a statement. “Neal was a legend in our industry and even more than that, a friend to all. Healthcare is a better and safer industry because of his lifelong commitment to improving care. The Patterson and Cerner family are in our thoughts and prayers.”

In its statement, Cerner said its board has a succession plan in place and the process to select a new, permanent CEO “is nearing a conclusion.”