Artificial Intelligence, Cerner, Electronic Health Record (EHR), Healthcare Analytics, Healthcare Technology, Machine Learning

Cerner’s Strategy to Deploy “Intelligence” into the Cerner Ecosystem – Insights from the 2018 Cerner Strategic Client Summit

I feel privileged to have been invited for the second year in a row to Cerner’s Strategic Client Summit.  The meeting location – downtown San Diego – and the Summit content were both fantastic.  I will attempt to summarize a few key concepts, and why I feel optimistic about where Cerner is heading – both from an overall perspective as well as from an improved product and end-user experience perspective.

I was very impressed with the collaboration between Cerner President Zane Burke and Cerner’s new Chairman and CEO Brent Shafer.   I had the opportunity to have several conversations with both Zane, whom I have known for a while now, and Brent whom I just had an opportunity to meet for the first time.  I found Brent to be very personable, and very thoughtful about his vision for Cerner.  I was also impressed with the collaborative relationship between Zane and Brent, and think they will lead Cerner in the correct direction.

I am not trying to downplay the roles that many people play inside of Cerner, because there are a lot of great things going on, but I think there are two strategic people that Cerner needs to pay attention to in order to move their EHR to the next level.

The first is Paul Weaver, Cerner’s Vice President of User Experience.  I first saw and met Paul at the 2017 Strategic Client Summit in Dallas Texas, and was very impressed by his vision and enthusiasm.  He hails from the gaming industry, and brings his expertise to the world of healthcare software, where it is much needed.  Here is a link to a 13 minute podcast where Paul talks about the importance of the user experience.  At the 2017 Summit, he used the words “user delight” as his goal of how the interaction with the EHR would make end users feel.  I don’t know about you, but I have used many words to describe my feelings of how the EHR made me feel, and none of them were delight!  His message – all interactions with a software program elicit some type of an emotional reaction.  He wants those reactions to be positive, decreasing stress, and making both patients and healthcare providers/workers “happier and healthier”.  This is a laudable goal, and will help in the fight to combat physician (and other healthcare worker) burnout/suicide – since negative experiences with the EHR are almost always identified as one of the top contributing factors to burnout.  This is an EXTREMELY important area for Cerner to get right, and they need to support Paul Weaver in his efforts to accomplish his goals.

The second strategic person is David Cohen, Vice President for Intellectual Property Development.  David’s presentation, “Activating Intelligence to Transform Care”, was visionary, and he articulated the concepts of machine learning and artificial intelligence, and how to utilize them in healthcare better than anyone else I have heard or read to date.  I will provide some high level overview of his vision below.  At this time it appears they have branded these efforts as “Cerner Intelligence – Leveraging the Power of Data”.

Cerner sees the new demands on health care as being proactive health management (vs reactive sick care); cross-continuum care system (vs fragmented niche care); rewards for quality, safety and efficiency (vs rewards for volume); and person and care team-centric (vs clinician-centric).

Value “drivers” were presented.    These were specific areas where Cerner intends to deploy their Intelligence to make meaningful improvements.   These included clinical and quality drivers, operational drivers, financial drivers, and drivers around improving the experience.  I feel these are appropriate areas to start deploying this Intelligence.  I can post more on this when this information becomes publicly available, because there are some important key areas that if realized, will bring great value to organizations.

Where David’s presentation got really interesting was when he started presenting how Cerner’s areas of focus were on using machine learning, artificial intelligence, and knowledge management.   I am going to provide his definitions of each, because I think they are defined very nicely.

  • Machine Learning:  Leveraging the power of data and statistical methods to create new insights and workflow optimizations
  • AI experiences:  Leverage Artificial Intelligence capabilities that mimic human behaviors such as voice, vision, language, and conversation to enhance human abilities
  • Knowledge management:  Ensure data is complete, contextual, and accurately represented using standards based medical vocabularies\

David then started talking about “AI Experiences” (see diagram from Cerner below – reprinted with permission).   I am convinced that Cerner gets where they should be going in regards to incorporating AI into healthcare, on a very practical basis.  This starts with the inputs into the AI systems, the transformations of those inputs by the system, the incorporation into the knowledge management systems, and most importantly, the AI applications that will make the EHR a true virtual partner in the healthcare process – for providers, patients, and healthcare workers.  What was shown was more than a concept, and the demo’s they put on showed that they are making progress on these. The concept of a mouse-less and keyboard-less interaction with the EHR may be a reality, sooner rather than later.  I encouraged Cerner executives to support these initiatives deeply and at the highest levels.

Cerner AI


Overall, I am very excited and optimistic about Cerner’s vision, and for the prospect of them delivering meaningful improvements and solutions – both near-term and long-term.  Their focus on improving the user experience and making it “delightful” is a very important initiative.   Their focus on using data to improve – almost everything – is foundational for moving all of us forward.  My plea to Cerner is to continue to very deeply support these initiatives, and the talented people they have focused on these.

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