Cerner announces vaccine mandate as Feinberg takes the reins

David Feinberg’s first day on the job as Cerner’s new chief executive officer was this past Friday – the same day that the Kansas City health IT giant (it’s the city’s biggest private employer) told all its United States employees that they must be vaccinated for COVID-19.

“Although no vaccine prevents all infections, the COVID-19 vaccines have been proven safe and highly effective,” said officials from Cerner’s pandemic task force in a note to employees Friday, according to a report in the Kansas City Star. “Vaccination remains the most effective way of reducing the incidence and severity of the virus.”

Cerner – which may still allow for certain medical or religious exceptions, the Star reports, requiring weekly testing in those cases – will otherwise mandate that all its U.S.-based employees to be fully vaccinated (two weeks out from the two-dose regimen of Pfizer or Moderna, or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson jab) by December. 8.

Interestingly, Cerner’s Friday announcement coincides with the date its chief rival, Verona, Wisconsin-based Epic Systems, had mandated that its own employees be fully vaccinated.

As Healthcare IT News reported in August, Epic announced this summer that all its U.S. employees would have to be fully vaxxed by October 1.

One big difference, of course, is that Epic – to some controversy – has had a much more aggressive return-to-work timeline. In June, the company announced that employees would have to work in the office at least three days per week, starting in mid-July.

Cerner, for its part, has offered a hybrid in-person/virtual model, and given its employees wider discretion. It has said that its workers won’t be required back in the office until January 2022.

Likewise, the company had at first not required staff vaccinations, unless employees were working with provider clients that have their own vaccine requirements.

“It is not an area we want to direct or require,” said Eva Karp, RN, Cerner’s chief clinical and patient safety officer on August 1.

Since then, of course, the Biden White House has required COVID-19 vaccination for “for employees working for employers that have 100 or more employees, as well as employees that work for the federal government or healthcare entities, and/or are federal contractors” – and Cerner fits the bill on all of those counts.

In a blog post to kick off his new tenure on Friday, titled “Why I Chose  Cerner,” Feinberg – who was named Cerner’s third CEO in August after leadership roles at Google Health, Geisinger and UCLA – reflected on his new home, and offered some insights into his plans for the future.

“I join Cerner this week after having built my early career around helping children and families,” said Feinberg, “opportunities that enabled me to impact healthcare and improve more people’s lives around the world.

“But the greatest impact I can have on healthcare quality and accessibility is at a company where every day we wake up thinking about how to use technology to improve people’s lives. That’s why I chose Cerner.

“By being the global leader in creating technology to improve the clinical, operational and financial outcomes for care providers around the world, Cerner – more than any other company – provides me the unique opportunity to help improve healthcare and the patient experience,” he said.

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: [email protected]

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS publication.

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