Neal L. Patterson has been an inspiration to many, as his vision and strategic thinking helped build Cerner Corporation into the world’s largest independent health information technology company. Patterson grew up on his family’s farm near Manchester, Oklahoma, a small town on the Oklahoma-Kansas border. After graduating from high school, he attended Oklahoma State University, where he completed his bachelor’s degree in 1971 and an MBA in 1972. Along with cofounders and former Arthur Andersen colleagues, Cliff Illig and Paul Gorup, Patterson started Cerner as a single laboratory information system in 1979. He invested in creating a suite of fully integrated, clinically focused, commercial health care applications.
The company entered the 1990s with a first-of-its-kind application set, built on a common platform, with real-time, interactive decision support. During the 1990s, Patterson invested significant resources to rebuild the platform on client-server technology using a person-centric data model. During his tenure as cofounder, chair, and CEO, Patterson led Cerner to invest more than 3 billion USD in health information technology R&D. These technologies are now used by approximately 18,000 facilities worldwide, including hospitals, physician practices, ambulatory facilities, extended-care facilities, and pharmacies.
Patterson was featured on the cover of Forbes in May 2012 for a feature story on health care changes, and in 2012, Forbes named him among the top five in “America’s Best CEOs.” In August 2013, Forbes ranked Cerner No. 7 on its list of the Most Innovative Companies in the U.S. and No. 13 in the world. Patterson has been listed five times as one of Modern Healthcare’s 100 Most Powerful People in Health Care. In January 2014, Becker’s Hospital Review listed Patterson among the 50 most powerful people in health care, and also in 2014, the Oklahoma State University Spears School of Business named Patterson as one of its 100 most influential alumni over the 100-year life of the school.
Patterson was instrumental in creating the Center for Health Systems Innovation (CHSI) at OSU, with gifts totaling 6 million USD. The CHSI is a collaborative effort between the OSU Spears School of Business and the OSU Center for Health Sciences. This center focuses on creating a comprehensive and coherent vision for health care problem solving through market-based solutions. The center has engaged more than 30 rural health clinics and is implementing business models to improve the delivery of rural health care. It is also implementing systems to better manage newly diagnosed atrial fibrillation patients and has successfully identified patients who would not otherwise have been diagnosed. Patterson has provided OSU with data from the largest relational database in health care, with more than 50 million de-identified patient records. A crew of 14 management information systems students and accompanying faculty are applying descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive data analytics protocols to these data.