The Wisconsin State Journal is reporting that Epic is working on the Epic App Store which will be called the Epic App Exchange. I guess the news was mentioned by Mark Bakken, co-founder and former chief executive of Nordic Consulting, at a Wisconsin Innovation Network event and confirmed by Shawn Kiesau, Epic spokesman. Here’s a quote from the article:
Bakken said the app store will launch in a few weeks and it will “open the floodgates” for all sorts of companies to develop and market their apps, especially those in the Madison area populated by former Epic employees.
“We think Epic is big now? This will cement their long-term legacy. It’s exactly the right thing to do,” Bakken said later in an interview.
Bakken has obviously drunk the Epic Kool Aid having created a very large Epic consulting firm in Madison and he’s now creating an investment fund called HealthX Ventures that’s focused on healthcare IT startups with many of them created by former Epic employees. He is right that an Epic app store with a robust API could be an awesome opportunity for Epic and entrepreneurs.
What’s not clear to me from this initial news is how open the Epic app store will really be. If it’s like their previous Epic API, it wasn’t much to write about. It didn’t allow an app to integrate deeply with the Epic system. Will we once again be disappointed by the Epic App Store, or will they start to really open up Epic to entrepreneurs who want to build applications on top of their systems?
My gut tells me that the former is more likely. This actually puts people like Bakken with deep relationships with Epic at a real advantage. My bet is that Epic will only work with companies and organizations that they trust and so these already existing relationships could become even more valuable. While it’s true that Epic should be careful with how they work with external companies that want to leverage the new Epic app store, there are ways they can protect their customers and patient data while still opening up their application to entrepreneurs of every kind. We’ll see if I’m wrong about this. Maybe they will really open things up, but I’m skeptical that they’ll be able to overcome their fear (unfounded as it may be).
In the article linked above, Bakken is quoted as saying that “he expects the first apps to come from Epic’s customer.” This would confirm my prediction above that Epic will be afraid to really open up its platform to entrepreneurs and instead will focus the app store on their closed customer ecosystem. Even the name “Epic App Exchange” hints at this being the case. They want their customers to exchange apps. They aren’t looking to create a true app store where entrepreneurs can innovate on top of Epic’s base.
Of course, since Epic doesn’t like to work with the media very much, it’s hard to know what the Epic App Store will really look like when it’s launched. This is a step in the right direction for Epic. I just still don’t think Epic understands the opportunity that they have to really improve healthcare and solidify themselves as the go to leader in healthcare IT. I’ll continue to hope I’m wrong and Epic will blow us away with the official announcement and details of a really open app store and API.