Cerner's new CEO is on a listening tour

Brent Shafer says the EHR giant wants to improve healthcare, and he’s asking clients how the company can better do that.
By Bernie Monegain
05:19 PM

LAS VEGAS – Brent Shafer, who took the reins at EHR giant Cerner last January after a 12-year stint as CEO of Phillips, is not only aware but also respectful, of the fact that he is filling big shoes at Cerner.

Shafer has taken the CEO position left vacant after the death of Neal Patterson, who was also co-founder and CEO of the company.

"What I'm really excited about in coming to Cerner -- kind of coming from a different background -- I've got this 30 years of experience in sort of all ends of healthcare.” He's worked in healthcare from the consumer end of and across all the segments, including some elements of healthcare IT.

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"I've seen it from all points of view, and I've known Cerner through all those years and seen Cerner's growth, its maturity and expansion," he said.

Since, coming on board at Cerner, Shafer has spent time getting to know leadership within the company. 

"It takes time to make all those personal relationships, he said, "but it's absolutely essential."

"I think the senior leadership, to a person, are very devoted to the mission. There's a very strong commitment to what Cerner's about, what we’re here to do -- to improve healthcare," he said. "You can really feel that goes very deep in the culture."

He points out there are 16,000 people working at Cerner in Kansas City alone. Shafer will be traveling soon to meet Cerner's European affiliates, he said.

What does he want to tackle first?

He's still in the listening mode, he said. He's spending a lot of time with clients, hearing what they have to say, what their needs are, what their experiences are with Cerner. He's also met with potential clients to see what they'd like the company to do -- what would make them more appealing and more attractive in the marketplace.

"For decades, Cerner has built its reputation on meaningful innovation and driving client value," Shafer said. "This company's history of remarkable, sustained growth is a testament to a strong leadership culture, and I'm excited to celebrate many new milestones with Cerner associates around the world."

Asked to talk about himself outside of work, what he likes to do, Shafer goes immediately to his role as father: Twin sons, who are now 31 years old and a daughter, who's 26.

He grew up skiing and engaging in outdoor activities in Utah and other Western states. Today, landing in Kansas City, home to Cerner, Shafer says it's a bit like coming home. The area feels familiar because of that Midwest feel, he said.

"It's very exciting to come now, to be part of Cerner's future," he said.

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