Epic pushes back against interoperability critics

Electronic health record vendor Epic is going on the offensive after claims that it impedes data-sharing, according to an article in Politico.

"If we don't speak up, people will believe what others say about us, and an unanswered accusation becomes seen as the truth if you don't respond," CEO Judy Faulkner said in an interview with the publication. "We're now in a position where we have to."

Critics say Epic makes its difficult or too expensive to share data, which presses smaller healthcare organizations to use the same software or join larger networks, according to the article. A Rand Corp. report states that more than half of the $24 billion spent by the Meaningful Use program has gone to Epic, a vendor operating a "closed platform."

That prompted Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) to single out Epic during a House Energy and Commerce Committee in July, saying it's possible "that fraud is being perpetrated on the American people."

In early August, Epic hired lobbyist Brad Card to counter the accusations; Faulkner told Politico the ability to share data was baked into the system from the beginning.

"Lots of other things we simply haven't attacked. And now, in retrospect, I wish we had," Faulkner said. "We've just shrugged and said, 'Well, forget it.' And moved on. Now, we're not doing that, and I'm actually glad we're not."

The company says it has more than 10,000 live connections between Epic and non-Epic systems, and that more than 680,000 pieces of patient information were exchanged between Epic and non-Epic customers in September, up from 313,000 in June. In addition, it counts 5.6 million total transactions between Epic systems, according to the article.

She points to KLAS reports ranking Epic at the top of the list for interoperability.

In a report released earlier this month, KLAS says that 82 percent of 220 providers interviewed said that they felt at least "moderately" successful at interoperability, but it was due to their own efforts, not those of their vendor.

In 2013, Faulkner also spoke out about criticisms that Epic's systems are difficult to integrate with third-party vendors. She referred to Epic as "the most open system I know."

"Database management systems need to allow their users to mold it to what they need," Faulkner said at the time. "We interface with speech recognition, imaging, medical devices, lab, patient education content, user authentication and hundreds of different vendor systems."

To learn more:
- read the article