Will Epic Interoperate With Other EMRs? Doesn’t Look Likely

Posted on March 2, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Epic president Judith Faulkner has suggested more than once that her company’s system can interoperate with virtually every other system out there, including your grandmothers Pentium 286 with Windows 3.0 on it.  How?  Through the magic of the continuity of care document.

But what’s the real story?  If the informed commentary among a group of IT insiders on Google Plus is correct, Faulkner’s claims are, uh, exaggerated at best. Epic’s EpicCare Everywhere isn’t quite what it seems, the group concludes.

Vince Kuraitis noted that per Epic’s own technical manual, non-Epic institutions get an XML file containing the CCD, but the Epic institutions get an XML file containing Epic proprietary extensions to the CCD.  “This is consistent with Epic’s proprietary, one-vendor-shop,non-interoperability stance,” Kuraitis noted. “The statement that “any hospital can interoperate with EpicCare Everywhere – just so long as they are an Epic institution aptly summarizes this”

My colleague John Lynn notes that Epic says it will offer richer data exchange between two Epic hospitals, but will only interoperate with other EMRs that comply with industry standards. As John appropriately asks, which standards does Epic support?

Epic may get away with these ambiguities for now, but it may not do so for long, argued Dave Chase.  For one thing, he notes, even IBM was forced to embrace the open source gospel once it began to lose market share, and to some extent Microsoft.

Perhaps more significantly, some observers are beginning to question whether Epic’s locking up interoperability options could constitute a restraint of trade, putting them in the sights of not only the Federal Trade Commission but also the ONC. “To the extent that patients are being harmed, I would think that the ONC would have something to say,” Chase wrote. (I would tend to agree with him.

As is often the case where Epic is concerned, we’re left with a cloud of smoke even when smart people have smart discussions on the topic of the feckless Wisconsin giant. I sure hope someone holds them accountable, and soon.