Looks like Epic is starting to open up and join the conversation about healthcare interoperability. The latest is an article in the New York Times which includes a few comments from Judy Faulkner, CEO of Epic. Here’s the main comments from Judy:
In 2005, when it became clear to her [Judy] that the government was not prepared to create a set of rules around interoperability, Ms. Faulkner said, her team began writing the code for Care Everywhere. Initially seen as a health information exchange for its own customers, Care Everywhere today connects hospitals all over the country as well as to various public health agencies and registries.
“Let’s say a patient is coming from U.C.L.A. and going to the University of Chicago, an Epic-to-Epic hospital. Boom. That’s easy,” Ms. Faulkner said. “These are hospitals that have agreed to the Rules of the Road, a legal contract, that says the other organization is going to take good care of the data.”
This is a really interesting approach. Blame the government for not applying a standard. Talk about how you’ve had to do it yourself and that’s why you built Care Everywhere. I wish that Judy would come out with the heart of the matter. Epic’s customers never asked for it and so they never did it. I believe that’s the simple reality. Remember that interoperability might be a big negative for many healthcare systems. If they’re interoperable, that could be a hit to revenue. Hopefully ACOs and other value based reimbursement will change this.
The key to coming clean like this though, is to come out with a deep set of initiatives that show that while it wasn’t something you worked on in the past, you’re going all in on interoperability now. We’re a very forgiving people, and if Epic (or any other large EHR vendor for that matter) came out with a plan to be interoperable, many would jump on board and forgive them for past transgressions (wherever the blame may lie).
Unfortunately, we don’t yet see this. I’d love to catch up with Judy Faulkner at CHIME and talk to her about it. The key will be to have a full spectrum interoperability plan and not just Care Everywhere that doesn’t work everywhere. Remember that Epic has charts for about 50% of the US patient population, but that’s still only 50%. Plus, of the 50% of patients they do have, a very very small percentage of them are all stored in the same Epic system. My guess would be that 99+% of patients who have a record in Epic have their medical records in other places as well. This means that Epic will need data from other non-Epic systems.
As I’ve said before, Epic wouldn’t need to wait for the government to do this. They are more than large enough to set the standard for the industry. In fact, doing so puts them in a real position of power. Plus, it’s the right thing to do for the US healthcare system.
Will the interoperability be perefect? No. It will take years and years to get everything right, but that’s ok. Progress will be better than what we have now. I love this quote from the NY Times article linked above:
“We’ve spent half a million dollars on an electronic health record system about three years ago, and I’m faxing all day long. I can’t send anything electronically over it,” said Dr. William L. Rich III, a member of a nine-person ophthalmology practice in Northern Virginia and medical director of health policy for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
I hope that Epic continues down the path to interoperability and becomes even more aggressive. I think the climate’s right for them to make it happen. They’re in a really unique position to be able to really change the way we think and talk about interoperability. I’m interested to see if they seize the opportunity or just talk about it.
Of course, we’ve focused this article talking about Epic. That’s what happens when you’re the A list celebrity on the red carpet. People want to talk about you. The NY Times article pretty aptly points out that the other EHR vendors aren’t much more or less interoperable than Epic. Feel free to replace Epic with another large EHR vendor’s name and the story will likely read the same.
My hope is that EHR vendors won’t wait for customers to demand interoperability, but will instead make interoperability so easy that their customers will love taking part. Watch for a future series of posts on Healthcare Intoperability and why this is much easier said than done.