MU and Cerner partner to create Tiger Institute for Health

Tuesday, September 29, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 11:36 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, September 29, 2009
CEO and co-founder of Cerner Corporation Neal Patterson, right, and MU System President Gary Forsee answer questions about a major health initiative and partnership with MU during a press conference in the MU School of Medicine on Sept. 28, 2009. "We're going to make a fundamental difference in health care", said Patterson, noting the advances in medical record keeping over the past 20 years.

COLUMBIA — Gary Forsee, University of Missouri System president, announced a collaboration between MU and Cerner Corp. on Monday that could improve patient safety and could potentially save Missouri residents $1 billion in the process.

The newly formed Tiger Institute for Health Innovation would develop an online medical record-keeping system that would enable MU Health Care to compile an online database encompassing a patient's entire medical history.

Cerner at a glance

Founded in 1979, Cerner Corp. provides health care solutions to hospitals, private practices, ambulatory services, home health facilities and pharmacies.

Cerner works with more than 8,000 clients worldwide.

The north Kansas City-based company supplies health organizations ranging in size from single-doctor practices to entire countries.

It has locations in 14 countries.

Cerner reported $1.68 billion in revenue in 2008. The company is partnered with Dell, Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, Oracle Corp., Sprint and BMC Software Inc.

Cerner’s mission is “to connect the appropriate persons, knowledge and resources at the appropriate time and location to achieve the optimal health outcome.”

-- Information courtesy of

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An improved electronic record-keeping system could make patient information available to doctors in one click, said Harold Williamson, MU Health Care vice chancellor.

Within a few keystrokes, doctors and other health care providers could view patient information like chronic conditions, prescription drugs and allergies, which could save time for providers and potentially save patient lives.

Currently, Williamson said, it takes 41 keystrokes to call up the medical history of a diabetes patient.

Neal Patterson, Cerner's chairman and CEO, said electronic record keeping also reduces the risk of medical error. According to a 1997 Institute of Medicine study called "To Err is Human," medical error accounts for at least 44,000 patient deaths each year, which, at the time, made it the eighth leading cause of death nationally.

 Patterson also said the Tiger Institute's work could save Missouri residents up to $1 billion annually. That figure was extrapolated from a study by the RAND Institute on Health Information Technology.

Forsee identified three key areas in which the institute’s work could save money for Missouri residents:


  • Increased use of electronic medical records regionally and statewide
  • Reduced hospital admission rates
  • Improved collaboration of care

Forsee said Cerner's partnership with MU is the largest corporate capital investment in the university's history. It is estimated to have a positive impact of $100 million on MU over the next 10 years, though Cerner’s exact monetary contribution is unclear.

The institute will incorporate employees from the Information Technology division of MU Health Care — 100 of whom will be supervised by Cerner, effective Tuesday, Forsee said. They may become full-time employees of Cerner if the company fulfills criteria that are still to be finalized.

A memorandum of understanding, signed by Forsee and Patterson, states that “Cerner will provide the same or better overall compensation to such employees based on then current employer contributions to salary, bonus and benefits.”

The two sides plan to formalize the agreement by Dec. 1.

“It allows us to be a real leader in the field of academic health," said James H. Ross, MU Health Care executive director.

He acknowledged that the transition might be a bit uncomfortable but is pleased that the terms of the agreement give current employees “the chance to continue the journey with us.”

Collaborating with MU Health Care allows Cerner to “move to the edge of where health care is delivered,” Patterson said.  

The Tiger Institute aims to put MU Health Care among the top 5 percent of health systems in health care IT by taking a lead in the national migration toward electronic medical record-keeping.

The institute is the result of an existing relationship between Cerner and the UM System dating back to 1996. No competing bids were sought, as Forsee maintained that the new institute will be “cash-flow neutral” for MU. The university does not plan to spend more on the institute than has been currently budgeted for MU Health Care’s IT department.

 "We've been moving down this electronic medical record path for quite some time,” Ross said. “We're probably 80 percent of the way there, and we're moving with Cerner to finish the last 20 percent."

Sherry Browne, former CIO of Ascension Health, was tapped to lead the institute, with other employees expected to be added soon.

Monday's announcement came less than one hour after Forsee, former Sprint-Nextel CEO, formally introduced the University of Missouri System Telepresence Center, an HD teleconferencing facility funded in part by MU’s “strategic advanced technology partners,” AT&T Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc.

Forsee cited the importance of working with corporate partners to grow while reducing the need for taxpayer support.

“These are the types of things we need to be willing to take on,” he said.

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