HLTH22: Google, Epic ink deal to migrate hospital EHRs to the cloud to ramp up use of AI, analytics

LAS VEGAS—Google Cloud and Epic, one of the largest medical records software companies in the U.S., inked an infrastructure agreement to enable hospital customers to run their Epic workloads on the tech giant's cloud technology.

New Jersey-based Hackensack Meridian Health plans to move its Epic workloads to Google Cloud, the health system announced this week. The health system aims to accelerate digital transformations by moving to the cloud. The 17-hospital system also plans to leverage technology like analytics and AI to improve patient outcomes while benefiting from enhanced security.

"Our mission to innovate requires accessible, cutting-edge technology," said Robert Garrett, CEO for Hackensack Meridian Health, in a statement. "With our Epic EHR on Google Cloud, we'll be able to innovate faster, and benefit from a more efficient and secure cloud environment."

"We expect running Epic on Google Cloud will be simpler for our IT and developers,  and will allow them to focus more on uncovering creative ways to improve patient care," said Kash Patel, executive vice president and chief digital information officer for Hackensack Meridian Health, in a statement. "Having everything with Google Cloud will provide a huge opportunity for discoveries. For example, data from our AI Avatar for natural language processing will already be in Google Cloud, ready for us to ask questions. This will speed up our work and make information more accessible."

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Epic currently captures about 33% of the U.S. hospital market share.

Hospital EHRs are data-rich, and leveraging cloud technology will inject intelligence into clinical workflows, according to Aashima Gupta, global director of Google Cloud's healthcare strategy and solutions.

"You need to understand the data, you need to see the pattern, you need to see the trends, and then we'll be able to predict. With Epic and Google Cloud, you will be able to bring that intelligence into the workflow," she said in an interview during the HLTH 2022 conference.

Epic's agreement with Google is a major pivot from two years ago when the EHR vendor said it would no longer pursue integrations with Google Cloud. The company said at the time it would instead focus on Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure, citing insufficient interest from customers in Google, CNBC reported.

"Hackensack Meridian Health is leading on two of the big transformations underway across this industry: building a secure foundation for digital infrastructure, and putting data and AI to work for the patient," Thomas Kurian, CEO of Google Cloud, said in a statement. "This agreement with Epic will allow us to optimize it to run on Google Cloud, and we look forward to providing healthcare organizations more choice as they work to deliver better outcomes for their patients."

Google Cloud also has collaborated with EHR vendor Meditech to integrate its clinician-facing search tool, called Care Studio, into the company's health records software.

Google Cloud and Hackensack are collaborating on a "healthcare data engine accelerator" project to improve equity, patient flow and value-based care. Tennessee-based Lifepoint Health and other organizations also are collaborating on the project.

Available in early 2023, the healthcare data engine accelerators will offer tailored infrastructure deployment configurations, BigQuery data models and Looker dashboard templates to support adoption and time-to-value of HDE for these common industry challenges, the organizations said.

The healthcare data engine leverages Google Cloud's infrastructure and secure data storage that support HIPAA compliance, and, when implemented, each customer's layers of security, privacy controls and processes protect the access and use of patient data, according to Google.

"These accelerators, developed collaboratively with healthcare organizations, will solve a range of industry pain points, and they will unlock the truly transformative power of interoperable longitudinal patient records," Gupta said. "The kind of transformation needed in healthcare can be daunting and slow, but an incremental, use case-based approach breaks apart these challenges into manageable solutions that capture specific business opportunities and drive innovation."