This story was updated at 2:50 p.m. to include a response from the University of Missouri's spokesman.
Cerner Corp. is unhappy that the University of Missouri has given the former chancellor of its Columbia campus a supporting role in a partnership operated by MU and Cerner without Cerner’s prior knowledge or approval.
In a letter sent Nov. 12 to the chairman of MU’s governing board, Cerner’s corporate counsel, Amy Freeman Pierce, complained that Cerner was not consulted or notified in advance that R. Bowen Loftin would have a role with the Tiger Institute for Health Innovation.
The institute was formed by MU and Cerner in 2009 to digitize the university’s health system, introduce innovations in the delivery of health care and reduce the sprawling university system’s health care costs. Earlier this year, the partnership was extended to 2025.
Cerner is a leading Kansas City-based health information technology company. It recently won a multi-billion contract from the U.S. Department of Defense to modernize the military’s electronic health records system.
Amid continuing racial unrest on the Columbia campus, Loftin on Nov. 9 announced he would resign as chancellor at the end of the year and instead take on a new position overseeing university research. Among other things, his written transition agreement calls for him to direct university research supporting the Tiger Institute.
Loftin’s resignation came the same day Tim Wolfe, the university system’s president, resigned. The university last week named Hank Foley as interim chancellor.
In her letter, which was first disclosed by The Columbia Missourian, Pierce wrote that (d)ecisions regarding matters material to the Tiger Institute require consensus from the Tiger Institute Board of Governors, a body with equal representation from Cerner and the University.”
Upon learning of Loftin’s agreement with the university, Pierce wrote, Cerner “immediately requested the removal of all references to Cerner and the Tiger Institute from the transition term sheet, pending appropriate review by the Tiger Institute’s Board of Governors.”
MU spokesman John Fougere said on Tuesday that the transition agreement "certainly anticipated that Cerner's viewpoints would be solicited, and we appreciate their providing those."
"Terms of the transition agreement are subject to further discussion towards what would be a final, formal agreement," he said.
Cerner spokesman Dan Smith said Tuesday that Loftin’s role with the Tiger Institute had not even been approved by the university’s governing board, let alone that of the institute, so the institute was in no position to approve it or disapprove it.
“Cerner’s understanding is that the terms of transition agreement that Dr. Loftin submitted to the board of curators hasn’t been considered by that body yet,” Smith said. “So the curators need to determine if those are acceptable terms to them first before this potential connection to the Tiger Institute comes to the (institute’s) board of governors.”
A statement released by Cerner said it was concerned “with the university’s decision to act unilaterally in speculatively including the possibility of a supporting role for Dr. Loftin within the Tiger Institute. This action does not comply with the governance structure for oversight of the Tiger Institute.”
Dan Margolies, editor of the Heartland Health Monitor team, is based at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.