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Epic Hires DC Lobbying Firm To Fight Closed-System Reputation

Posted on September 15, 2014 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

For quite some time, everybody’s favorite EMR giant has a “no marketing, no government relations” policy. (In fact, Epic staffers really seem to hate journalists, but maybe they just don’t like me — who knows?)

Anyway, a few weeks ago, reports the ever-watchful HISTalk, it came out that Epic has broken its rule, hiring on DC lobbying firm Card & Associates. While you might think Epic would hire a billion-dollar behemoth, Card is a smallish firm with seven modest accounts and only one healthcare client. It must help, however, that Card is run by the brother of the former White House Chief of Staff under Pres. George W. Bush.

So what made Epic change its standard operating procedure and begin lobbying The Hill? In its federal lobbying disclosure, the EMR firm says that it’s begun lobbying to “educate members of Congress on the interoperability of Epic’s healthcare information technology.”

The timing of the outreach effort isn’t a coincidence, Modern Healthcare astutely notes. As you read this, a team made up of Epic, IBM and a handful of other technology giants are fighting other equally ferocious IT firms to win the roughly $11 billion contract to update the Department of Defense’s clinical systems.

While none of its contract competitors have a strong reputation for interoperability, Epic is seen as much worse, with a RAND Corp. study released in July calling Epic’s systems “closed records.” That had to hurt.

Unless Epic plans to hold health IT classes for Congress over the next several years, I doubt they’ll be able to make their point with largely Luddite Senators and Representatives in Washington on a technical basis. That is, Epic’s lobbyists won’t be able to convince legislators that Epic is interoperable on the merits.

But lobbyists may very well be able to break the ice on The Hill, and sell the idea that those mean, bad old health IT competitors haven’t been telling the truth about Epic. The pitch can include the somewhat matronly CEO, Judith Faulkner, who doesn’t look like the most powerful woman in healthcare or a competitor that would gladly bite your head off and spit it down your neck. Then they can roll out Epic’s pitch that its systems actually are interoperable (between other Epic installs at least). If it sticks even a little bit, whatever the $1.7 billion company spent will have been worth it.

Frankly, I find the idea of portraying Epic as an underdog in any way as downright laughable, and I bet you do too. But I simply can’t imagine another pitch that would work.

Why Don’t We Hear More from Epic, Cerner, or MEDITECH?

Posted on September 4, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit.

Epic is notorious for being “closed.” In fact, people talk about Epic being closed in so many ways, it’s hard to keep up. However, I think they are mostly seen as closed because of Judy’s decision to almost never talk to the media. In fact, it’s pretty rare that any one from Epic talks to the media. I remember when it was groundbreaking news when someone at Forbes did an interview with Judy.

Obviously, opening yourself to the media isn’t essential to making an enterprise sale. Judy and Epic have done quite well without opening themselves up to the media. In fact, their closed approach has in some cases gotten them more media coverage (see this blog post). Regardless of what you think of Epic, they are largely perceived as a black box that we don’t know nearly enough about. They have been more open with who they are and what they do in the past couple years than they ever were before, but that’s really not saying much.

While many love to talk about Epic’s closed nature, are any of the other hospital EHR vendors like Cerner or MEDITECH much more open? Last I checked, I have’t seen any of the CEOs of these companies blogging about their company and sharing their company’s culture and approach to the future publicly like we see in so many other tech companies. I haven’t seen many of the top leadership at any of these companies active on Twitter or other social media. Do any of these companies really show us any of their humanity? I can’t think of any that do.

The same isn’t true in the ambulatory world. We know all about athenahealth from Jonathan Bush who’s never afraid to bear his soul. SRSSoft and SOAPware have had really active CEOs who’ve openly shared their view of the EHR industry. Those are just a few of the examples. Why don’t we see the same from hospital EHR vendors?

I think the reason why is that it’s never been part of the culture of these companies. Changing that is a really hard thing to do. I don’t see it happening anytime soon. The closest we came to it was when the CEOs of many of these companies joined in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Watching those videos made those companies a little more human. I think that’s a great thing for these companies.

While these companies have proven that you don’t need to engage their community in public to be successful, I’d suggest that the company that does start to do this will be at a distinct advantage. If the existing companies don’t decide to do it, then don’t be surprised if a new company disrupts the market with a more open and human approach. The incumbent EHR vendors won’t know what hit them and likely won’t be able to change the culture fast enough to fight them off.

Assuming you’re working on and doing amazing things for your customers, transparency can be an amazing marketing tool. If you’re not, then it’s better to hide in the shadows.

650 Posts, 500,000 Pageviews and Interesting Search Terms

Posted on August 15, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit.

It’s an exciting time for Hospital EMR and EHR. We just passed 650 blog posts since we started this hospital IT focused blog back on May 19, 2011. Hard to believe that this blog is already 3 years old. 215 posts a year is a pretty amazing body of work. Plus, we’re approaching nearly half a million pageviews in that time and have 1,198 email subscribers for just this blog (not including the general Healthcare Scene email subscribers). A big thank you to everyone who reads us regularly.

I thought it would also be fun to take a look at the funny, interesting and insightful things that people are searching on Google (and other search engines) that lead them to the site:

epic certification – With 1,625 searches (and thousands of more searches for variations of this term), there is a lot of interesting in becoming Epic certified. Unfortunately, I think that means there are a lot of really unsatisfied people when they find out that there’s no easy way to get Epic certified. I hope this changes.

epic emr – Obviously we’ve written a lot of content about Epic. Although, overall interest in Epic is always high. So, it’s not surprising that many of our readers are interested in reading about Epic.

soarian & soarian emr – At least for this site, Soarian takes the second spot on searches. I think that’s attributed to some great articles that we’ve written on Soarian over the years.

meditech emr – I’m a little surprised that we still don’t have Cener on the list, but Epic, Soarian, and MEDITECH are attracting more searches to this site than Cerner. I guess that means we need to write more content about Cerner.

meditech vs epic – Looks like many people have been searching to see if they should move from MEDITECH to Epic. At least I assume this is the direction they’re considering. Has anyone heard of someone going from Epic to MEDITECH?

epic certification salary – You can understand the interest in these numbers. Although, I’m surprised that Google didn’t send them to this post on Healthcare IT Today about Epic Salaries and Bonuses. Although, that’s for people working at Epic. Maybe I should do a post on Epic certified consultants salaries.

hospital ehr vendors – This search is not surprising since our Hospital EHR vendor page is one of our most popular pages.

ipad security issues – A great topic of discussion that every hospital is dealing with. Apple has come a long way on this issue, but they could still do better. Although, I’m not convinced they’ll ever fully embrace enterprise IT.

closed loop medication administration – We haven’t dug into this topic as much, but we should. I’ll add it to my list of future topics.

An interesting look at what people are searching on Google (albeit biased by the content of this site). Thanks everyone for reading. I look forward to our next 650 blog posts.

Has Epic Fostered Any Real Healthcare Innovation?

Posted on August 13, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit.

I saw the following tweet and was really struck by the question.

I think we could broaden the question even more and ask if any EHR vendor has really fostered healthcare innovation. I’m sorry to say that I can’t think of any real major innovation from any of the top hospital EHR companies. They all seem very incremental in their process and focused on replicating previous processes in the digital world.

Considering the balance sheets of these companies, that seems to have been a really smart business decision. However, I think it’s missing out on the real opportunity of what technology can do to help healthcare.

I’ve said before that I think that the current EHR crop was possibly the baseline that would be needed to really innovate healthcare. I hope that’s right. Although, I’m scared that these closed EHR systems are going to try and lock in the status quo as opposed to enabling the future healthcare innovation.

Of course, I’ll also round out this conversation with a mention of meaningful use. The past 3-5 years meaningful use has defined the development roadmap for EHR companies. Show me the last press release from an EHR company about some innovation they achieved. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any and that’s because all of the press releases have been about EHR certification and meaningful use. Meaningful use has sucked the innovation opportunity out of EHR software. We’ll see if that changes in a post-meaningful use era.

Pay at Epic – Did You Know There’s an Epic Reddit?

Posted on August 11, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit.

HIStalk recently pointed to a reddit post about the Salary, Raise and bonus structure at Epic. It’s a fascinating look at what you get paid to work at Epic. I’ll be covering that topic in detail on our Healthcare IT Today career blog. However, did you know that there’s a subreddit on Epic?

In some ways, I think this says a lot about how far reddit has come, but it also says something about the size of Epic and the type of employee they attract. The younger reddit generation is their hiring strategy.

The subreddit is quite interesting. They talk about things like lunch at Epic (cheap and good), what it’s like to be a mom at Epic, and even topics like whether you can have a tattoo at Epic. Although, this one talking about the creepy customer announcements made me laugh:

The customer announcements over the loud speaker are so bizarre. It makes me feel like I’m in a1984-esque reality with an unsilenceable propaganda machine.
I doubt they intend it to be this way, but it is all I ever feel when it occurs.
Does anyone not find them creepy?

Looks like they even preach the Epic culture over the loud speaker. I do like that their celebrating each customer win since an Epic customer win is a really big deal. Although, the description makes me wish I could hear one of these announcements.

The Epic subreditt isn’t super active, but I’ll have to keep an eye on it to see any other interesting topics that are started. Maybe start a few of my own.

Cerner’s Siemens Acquisition and the Impact on the DoD Bid

Posted on August 7, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit.

One topic I didn’t address in my post covering the $1.3 billion Siemen’s acquisition by Cerner is how this will impact the $11+ billion DoD bid. There’s a lot of discussion about what this acquisition will do. Let me pull out my crystal ball and give you my thoughts.

I personally think that this acquisition will have very little impact on which cluster of companies will win the DoD EHR contract. Some might say that Cerner gains some advantage by having some of the Siemens capabilities on board. Others could argue that Cerner will be distracted with the Siemens acquisition and so they wouldn’t be able to focus on such a large EHR contract. While both of things have some truth, I really don’t think they’ll factor into the DoD decision making.

It seems the consensus out there is people expect Epic to win the DoD contract. If that happens, the Siemens acquisition could become even more interesting for Cerner. It’s a very likely reality that whoever gets the DoD contract will lose some potential clients due to concerns about capacity. If Epic or Cerner get the DoD contract, then it’s possible that these capacity concerns will move them down a notch in people’s EHR selection process. This is a situation where Cerner will benefit from having connections to all of these Soarian customers. As I posted previously, it might be best for Epic not to win the DoD contract.

Are there other ways that Cerner’s acquisition of Siemens impacts the DoD EHR bid?

Why Might Intermountain Have Chosen Cerner Over Epic?

Posted on July 14, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit.

An anonymous person on HIStalk gave some really interesting insights into Intermountain’s decision to go with Cerner instead of Epic.

Re: Intermountain. The short-term choice (three or so years) would have been Epic, but we went with Cerner because of Epic’s dated technology, Cerner’s openness, and the feeling that we would be more of a partner than a customer with Cerner. The partnership is more than words. We’re working closely with Cerner and their horde of sharp, dedicated people on the implementation. We have some pieces they don’t and those are being built into the Cerner system, while some of our own development efforts have been redirected since Cerner already has that functionality. The first rollout is scheduled for December and I think it will go well due to the way the teams are working together. Unverified.

This is the best analysis of Intermountain’s decision to go with Cerner that I’ve seen. As in every billion dollar procurement decision, it’s always got other nuances and pieces that go into the decision making process. However, the above analysis gives us a good place to start.

Let’s look at the main points that are made:

1. Is Epic technology more dated than Cerner?

2. Is Cerner more open than Epic?

3. Will Cerner be more of a partner than Epic would have been?

I’d love to see Judy’s (Epic CEO’s) comments on all of these. I’m sure she’d have a lot to say about each of them. For example, you may remember that Judy described Epic as the most open system she knows. Ask someone who wants to get Epic certified if they’re open. Ask a health IT vendor that wants to work together if Epic is open. Ask even some of their smaller customers who want to do things with Epic if Epic is open. They’d all likely disagree that Epic is the most open system.

I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on each of these three points. I think it will make for a really lively discussion that will help us get closer to understanding the reality of these assertions.

However, reality aside, I can tell you that the public image of Epic vs Cerner certainly confirms all three of these points. Whether Intermountain indeed used these points as part of their decision process or not, I don’t know. What I do know is that it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they did think this way since there are many in the market that believe and share all of the above three impressions.

Epic’s 13 Principles

Posted on June 17, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit.

I recently came across this blog called “Life After Epic” which has the subtitle, “For the soon-to-be-Ex Epic Employee.” Although, if you look at the blog address it’s FiredFromEpic.blogspot.com. I assume Fired from Epic was the original blog name, but was likely changed for obvious reasons.

I’m sure I’ll reference more articles from this blog in the future, but I was really intrigued by the 13 Epic Principles that the blog’s been covering recently. Epic’s 13 Principles definitely provide some interesting insight into the EHR vendor Epic.

1. Do not go public.
2. Do not be acquired.
3. Expectations = reality.
4. Keep commitments.
5. Be frugal.
6. Have standards. Don’t do deals.
7. Create innovative and helpful products.
8. Have fun with customers.
9. Follow processes. Find root causes. Fix processes.
10. Don’t take on debt for operations, no matter how good the deal.
11. Focus on competency. Do not tolerate mediocrity.
12. Teach philosophy and culture.
13. If you disagree, dissent. Once decided, support.

What do you think of these principles? If you’ve dealt with Epic, you’ve no doubt seen a lot of them in action.

The Best Thing For Epic Might Be to NOT Win the DoD Contract

Posted on June 2, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit.

For those not familiar with the Department of Defence (DoD) EHR contract that’s being bid on right now, check out our post about the $11 billion EHR contract. Yes, you’re reading that right. That’s $11 billion with a B. I believe that would be the largest single EHR contract ever (I believe Kaiser was $4 billion to start).

Needless to say, this is an enormous contract that will make some outside companies very rich. I can’t even imagine what $11 billion of EHR consultants and software would look like. That’s a lot of EHR jobs to go around, but I digress.

Most people in the industry seem to believe that Epic is the front runner in the race. Considering the number of large deals that Epic has won, Epic winning the DoD EHR contract would be a safe bet. Although, I wonder if the best thing for Epic would be for them to not win the DoD contract.

Sure, Epic would take a short term PR hit if someone else like Cerner wins the DoD contract. You can already predict the press headlines talking about the fall from power as Epic loses to Cerner (similar to when Cerner won the Intermountain deal over Epic). That would have some damage to Epic’s reputation, but not really. It’s not like any other hospital in the US thinks that their contract would be anything like the DoD EHR contract. In fact, many of the hospitals purchasing Epic EHR will be grateful that Epic resources aren’t being tied up on a new $11 billion contract while their “small” $100 million EHR project languishes.

Indeed, the best thing for Epic might be for it to NOT win the DoD EHR contract. Let’s remember that Epic has a really good history of successful EHR implementations. Sure, there are a few examples where the Epic implementation hasn’t gone so well. However, I think the general view of the industry is that Epic implementations generally go well. In fact, there are stories of Epic contracts so stringent that when an Epic implementation starts to go bad, Epic comes in and takes over to make sure that the implementation goes well.

Long story short, Epic has the best reputation of any hospital EHR vendor when it comes to successful EHR implementations (especially large ones). Epic winning the DoD EHR contract could do a lot to tarnish that reputation.

One might argue that if Epic’s successful with the $11 billion DoD EHR contract, that it will be a boon to their current reputation. That’s fair, but the DoD EHR implementation would be unlike most other EHR implementations. First, the DoD doesn’t have a sterling reputation for successful healthcare software projects. That will likely become an issue for anyone who wins the contract. Second, we’re talking about a government entity with layers of red tape and bureaucracy. A small company like Epic (small in government contractor terms) isn’t going to carry the same weight as they usually do in their other hospital EHR implementations. Epic, the control company, won’t be able to control the DoD EHR project the same way they usually do.

One could use the same argument I used above about why even if Epic gets the DoD contract and fails, it won’t tarnish their reputation since hospitals realize that the DoD is unique. However, the difference between losing a bid and a failed $11 billion project is very different. The failed DoD EHR bid will be covered once and then generally forgotten. A failed $11 billion contract can carry on for years as timelines are delayed, budget overruns are reported, discontent leaks out, he said-she said occurs, and the media churns and speculates on what’s happening with the DoD EHR project.

We all think that winning an $11 billion contract would be great. Indeed, that’s a lot of money and would be an enormous win worth celebrating. The only question is how long will the celebration continue? If I’m Epic, I wouldn’t be too sad if I didn’t win the contract. In the long term, it might be for the best.

Epic Insider Article

Posted on May 30, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit.

If you read this blog, then you’re probably as interested in the secretive Epic as me. So, you’ll love this article in the Madison paper from a former Epic employee talking about what it was like for him to work at Epic.

I’m sure I’ll do some more posts about a number of topics in this article in the future, but I was most intrigued by the strong culture that they’ve created at Epic. I always knew that it was the case, but it was really interesting to see it described first hand.

The donut day story in the article was a great example. You have to read the whole story in the article to know what I mean (go ahead and read it and I’ll be here when you get back).

While I’m someone who agrees that the company should be looking at the root causes for “Why” you do something, the story also makes me wonder if they get blinded by one vision and can’t see that there could by multiple Why’s for a certain task. I think this could apply to Epic and interoperability. They’ve taken a hard line because of a certain why that they have, but it seems to ignore the other 10 reasons why they should be more open. I think that this type of thinking will eventually catch up to them.

The other part of the article which struck me was all of the different ways that they approached hiring, managing, promotion, etc. No doubt hiring and firing the right people is the hardest thing to do in any business. Although, this insight from the article made me wonder if Epic is missing out on an opportunity to be even more than they are today:

Epic is teeming with talent but every year the company loses many employees it would have preferred to keep. There’s no silver-bullet solution to the turnover problem, but one place to start might be hiring more people who have worked in health care and can leverage their experience to connect with end users. One person from my project team who worked as a nurse before Epic hired him demonstrated exceptional rapport with a roomful of practitioners because he’d actually performed the relevant work in a clinical setting.

Diversity can be really beneficial to a company and I wonder if Epic couldn’t benefit from some diversity.