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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Play Ball: Clay Patterson's Jacket

On June 1st, 2011 just days shy of the Walking Gallery, I flew out the Kansas City to perform a speech before 650 developers/programmers who work for Cerner.  I even painted two jackets in my hotel room while preparing for my speech.  This would be my third speech presented before the staff and clients of Cerner. 

I had been invited to deliver my first Cerner speech at a Meaningful Use Summit on the Cerner Campus by Roy Foster in Kansas City, Missouri exactly a year before.   The Cerner Campus amazed me. It was designed to visually combine elements of art, medicine and technology.   My Cerner speech was the first keynote speech I ever gave.  It was the first time I designed my own power point.  It was the first time I flew out of state to give a speech.   

And it was the first time I met Clay Patterson.
Clay Patterson at Dinner
I vividly remember meeting Clay.  He was introduced to me as an excellent IT professional working on new programs within Cerner.  We shook hands and he began to explain his ideas.  He gestured with animation at the display screen, his boyish good looks and the sparkle in his eye made me feel at times as though I was speaking to a middle school student after winning the big game rather than a most successful under-40 Kansas City businessman.   I got to speak to him quite a bit about the ideas he had and how they could change the future of patient care.  I had recently discovered the differences between a legacy EMR and a cloud-based provider. I intently listened to Clay engaged by his explanation of Cerner.   I also learned that Clay was a scion: his father Neal Patterson was CEO of Cerner.  Most importantly, I learned that Clay’s deep dedication to the patient perspective in electronic medical records sprang from a wellspring of love.  Clay’s step-mother has cancer.

And months later this vision of a helpful, boyish and exuberant Clay Patterson would roll within my mind and become part of one of my favorite painting’s “The Menu Set.” I would write about that painting in this post:


  I would explain this painting at the different locations in which it has been shown.  I would say Clay Patterson from Cerner is in the picture.  HIT people in the know would often correct me, “ You must mean Neal Patterson.” No, I would say.  I mean Clay Patterson, the son.

I was invited once again to speak before Cerner in early October 2010.  I flew back to Kansas City and presented as the member of a panel of speakers as part of the Cerner Annual Conference in Kansas City.   I normally dress in black dresses with a conservative blazer.  But at this event, I wore the brightest shade pumpkin orange.  I felt sort of conspicuous, but thought it is October.  When I arrived at the event I was amazed to see that same shade of orange everywhere!  Every member of the Cerner teams in every booth of the exhibition floor was wearing that exact same shade.  Clay‘s team asked me how I knew to dress in “the color of the day?”  I blushed, and told them I just felt that I was supposed to wear this color.
I am a patient portal
After presenting my speech, Clay and his team took me around the entire exhibition hall.  I was amazed by many of the things I saw.  I was very taken with a visual display screen depicting the clinical decision support tool entitled Discern.  As I stood at Clay’s side, I looked up at the oversized screen and stared at the blocks of color.  And like a penitent standing before a stained glass window, I asked Clay if they had created anything like this for patient decision support.  He said no, this was designed for Doctors.  “Interesting,” I said to Clay.  “Do you know what the word Discern means to many people?  It means to hear the word of God.”
And finally, I was back in Kansas City in June 2011, to speak yet again.  In the months between I kept in contact with Clay during a series of emails and tweets.  And I was so happy to have dinner with Clay, Scott Ackerson and Brian Carter.  It was a brilliant and freewheeling conversation in which the seeds of a painting were planted.  And from that conversation and my trips to Cerner a jacket painting was created.
Play Ball: Clay's Jacket
This is Play Ball: Clay Patterson’s Jacket. 

In this painting Clay is no longer the young man of the Menu Set.  He is no longer smiling in good humor, while being ignored by two clinicians.  He is now an adult confident leader, ready to play ball.  He holds his bat in a nonchalant fashion over his shoulder as his far-seeing eyes gaze into the distance.  

You see Cerner may only be an EMR company, but within their company they created a healthy living initiative tied into their patient portal and electronic health record.  It is called the Slimdown Throwdown.   It is crisp baseball themed website design brought to you by Scott Ackerson’s design group in Cerner.  Within the competition employee teams compete against each other in a physician reported weight-loss challenge.  The winning team is awarded an all expenses paid vacation.  This web and EHR supported competition will soon be able to leave the confines of Cerner and create health challenges through out Kansas City.
the Cerner Smart Card
In Clay’s other hand he holds the Cerner Health and Wellness Card.  We spoke quite a bit about this card at dinner as Brian fished his out of his pocket and told me to try it out.  I am familiar with such cards.  They are used by many systems in Europe and some in the US to allow for ease of check in and payment.  But Brian explained this card also functioned as a first responder emergency card.  He encouraged me to flip-over the card and use my smart phone to bring up his record.  I couldn’t believe it.  Within moments I was looking at any information that Brian Carter had wanted a first responder who was treating him to see immediately.  It was amazing.

Behind Clay there is a scoreboard.   Now things get really interesting. 

There are 650 at bat representing the developers who saw my speech.     The traditional scoring fields have been replaced by CPOE, EHR, HIE, CDS and HIT.  The scores are filled with a continual chain of ones and zeros.  This is a binary scoreboard and beneath the scoreboard an infinite stream of Matrix-like code descends.  One of the only scoring fields that remain from a traditional board is that of errors.  But that field is answered with a question mark, as we do not know the extent of errors with medicals records that remain opaque to patients.
Clay Patterson at Cerner
There are two teams at the Cerner field and they are both called home.  If you look above, this dichotomy of form is repeated.  On the left is the old Cerner logo, with all of its corporate angular harshness.  On the right it the new Cerner logo billowing out like a ribbon of welcome.  This is a time of change of within Cerner. They have issued a throw down challenge at themselves.  I am very interested to see what weight shall be jettisoned in the days and months ahead as each team fights for its dream.
The Riverfront
I presented my speech at Cerner in the Cerner continuing educational facility on the Riverfront property and former address of Sam’s Town Casino in North Kansas City.  Before entering the building, I was inspired the echoing silence of the large empty parking garage: a space designed for a riverboat that was no longer there.  I felt the powerful ripples in time as an empty Cerner parking lot reflected the potential energy of those who were not there in person but were very much present online.  That potential energy has power to change way we do medicine and view patient participation within electronic health records.
Getting ready to speak
And within an hour I had another first due to giving a speech at Cerner.  I was trending on Twitter.  I was so happy to present, and overjoyed that Clay gave me his jacket to paint.  When he gave his jacket to me I told him how much I loved the facility.  I said I could see it as a Kansas City technology Hub, I could see it as the home of Health 2.0 Kansas City.  I could see it as a children’s museum focusing on the intersection of electronic health records and mobile health.  Perfectly designed for the young boy depicted in this painting.   Think Kaiser Center for Total Health, but even cooler, with more neon lighting and some music from Tron.
Play Ball
Some of the Cerner team looked at me quizzically, “ You do know this is just an old failed casino, right?” 

But I see with new eyes. 

I see what can be without old prejudice.  When I look at Cerner I don’t see an old legacy EMR system.  I see a future cloud/ legacy composite that could save lives.  I see the shedding of a logo that was more about corporate power and less about sharing.  I see a company that has invited me: Little Miss A-type, the painting activist, the one who tells it as she sees it.  They have invited me to speak three times before thousands of people.
Clay Patterson at Cerner
And when I see Clay Patterson, I don’t just see a scion.  I see a man ready to play ball.     


  1. How is it, no matter what venue you speak, no matter what your topic... you bring me to tears. You break my heart, and then fix it... thanks.

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