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  • July 23 2012

    In 2005, during an executive retreat, we reviewed our current health care spend and projections. Like many large employers, Cerner is self-insured. And like many large employers, we focused on this one time a year, when the new rates would come out for next year’s plan. It was one bad meeting a year; we’d discuss it for a while but in the end, just accepted it and moved forward. This year was different though, we looked at the core of our purpose as a company and decided to do something about it. We took over management of our health plan, opened on site clinics, and began to modernize our health benefits programs to engage our associates and their families. Today, from a pure financial perspective, we have consistently outperformed the national averages on cost increases, and more importantly have improved the health status within our own community. This is where the story now takes a new turn.

    We have learned a lot over the last several years, innovating along the way, but it is a controlled environment within a narrow population. What if we attempted to replicate the portfolio of learning and discovery to a broader community? What impact might that have on the health status and economic development of a region? Cerner has a history of being entrepreneurial advocates and we are not ones to wait around for policy to drive solutions to the problems our health care system faces. We innovate solutions and test them out in real-world settings to gain insight into how we can make systemic improvements in health care. A fair amount of our associates come from rural communities and collectively we have a passion and understanding for small town America. Our goal is to create a sustainable and replicable model for rural America that changes the experience that our friends and families in those communities navigate on a daily basis.

    Today Cerner and the community of Nevada, Mo., announced a first of its kind partnership to create a Healthy Nevada. We believe that together, we can impact the cost and accessibility of care, while improving the quality of life across a community. After almost a year of intense evaluation, we selected Nevada as our pilot community because of their strong leadership and shared vision for a higher quality of life and long-term vitality of Rural America. Nevada has already been on a journey with a number of programs to improve their environment. Cerner’s role is to be a catalyst and accelerate the integration of these individual components to have a material impact in a shorter period of time.

    By bringing together schools, employers, community organizations, grocery stores, restaurants, churches, sports leagues and citizens, we are going to create a culture of health innovation that inspires and empowers the community of Nevada to be more proactive in their health and care. This will be a journey with community engagement and sponsorship at the foundation. Rural health has its challenges. We, along with the community of Nevada, believe we can find a solution for those challenges right here in the middle of the “Show Me” state.

    Jeff Townsend is responsible for a wide swath of Cerner business, including supervision of Cerner LifeSciences, Employer Services, and much of Cerner’s cloud computing effort, the foundation for our consumer presence. These market initiatives are referred to as CERN—an acronym for Consumer, Employer, Research and Networks—and are critical to Cerner’s vision for population health. The CERN structure also encompasses Cerner’s Revenue Cycle, EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and Lighthouse clinical process improvement organizations, to establish future strategic alignment between U.S. and European health care systems. Townsend is also the senior executive responsible for the Tiger Institute and the University of Missouri Health System, Cerner’s second charter ITWorks™ client. He also oversees Catalyst, an organization that works across Cerner supporting front line teams and clients with a blend of education, communication and marketing expertise. Additionally, Townsend focuses much of his time on the innovation, strategy and direction of Cerner solutions, financial planning and overseeing the company’s day-to-day operations as CEO Neal Patterson’s proxy.

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