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Epic UGM: Did we really gain any insights about Epic’s strategic direction?

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Another User Group Meeting (UGM) has come and gone in Verona, Wisconsin. So did we learn anything new about how Epic Systems Corporation will address perceived issues with its product – including limited system interoperability with other vendors, an antiquated software platform, and cumbersome reporting capabilities? Maybe.

Epic introduced open.epic, an application programming interface that enables developers to access sample code and integrate consumer-facing monitoring devices and health-tracking applications with Epic’s vast amount of patient data. Allowing external developers greater access to Epic is unquestionably positive and has significant potential; however, leadership offered few details about how Epic would work to expand interoperability with other EHR vendors. Interfacing with patient devices is only a small part of the equation when striving toward comprehensive record integration. We believe Epic could do more to allow for effortless transition of information between systems.

From an IT platform standpoint, little guidance was provided about the transition to a Web-based platform. In talking to developers throughout Epic, we gathered that the transition continues to forge ahead slowly.

Finally, in terms of reporting-related enhancements, Epic showcased a number of improvements to Slicer Dicer. Advancements in Slicer Dicer are exciting – the reporting product now features a more user-friendly way to manipulate data and potentially drive more meaningful decision making. Examples demonstrated during UGM include advanced provider and staff productivity reporting and patient health maintenance management by disease category. Over the past year, it appears that Epic’s reporting capabilities have gained substantial flexibility as a result of a considerable investment in development.

Aside from product updates, Epic shared its perspective about the ever-changing landscape in healthcare IT. Most interestingly, Epic leadership marketed the idea of a 5-year pause in the implementation of meaningful use Stage 3 standards. Epic’s point of view is certainly intriguing, but also premature, as many organizations are just now beginning their Stage 2 implementations. Presumably, Epic’s rationale is that healthcare organizations would benefit from a period of time to stabilize and evaluate progress before defining new objectives for deeper patient record integration, improved patient access, and ultimately more patient empowerment. With the speed of implementation and scope of change incorporated in the first three stages of meaningful use, a pause may be warranted; however, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information should complete an assessment of Stages 2 and 3 before reaching any conclusions.

So, to answer the question of whether we learned anything about Epic’s strategy to address key product concerns, we would say yes and no. Epic shared a number of key features and software updates that certainly enhance the product’s capabilities. And guidance was provided to Epic’s client base about how the product will help address key operational and regulatory challenges within healthcare. With that said, Epic didn’t share any advancements that are particularly innovative or revolutionary relative to its peer EHR competitors. Hopefully, the Spring Forum or UGM in 2014 will provide clearer insights into Epic’s future development strategy, but we will have to wait and see.

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