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Help Us Paint Epic's Portrait

February 22, 2008
by aguerra
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For years, Epic Systems has been the "quiet, stalking giant" of health care IT, racking up more and more hospitals, medical groups and health systems as customers while carefully trying to stay out of the limelight as much as possible. So what's the secret to the success of this "quiet company"? HCI is working on an in-depth profile of what has become one of the most-remarked-on, yet perhaps still least-understood success stories in healthcare IT in the past decade. Are you a CIO or senior IT executive with Epic experiences? A consultant who has advised on an Epic implementation? An analyst who has studied the organization? If so, we'd like your input. Please e-mail HCI Editor-in-Chief Anthony Guerra. Your participation will help us paint the fullest portrait possible.



I first met Judy in late 1998. I had just been appointed as the " temp" CIO for a Major IDN in Nor Cal. Things were falling apart across the system and with a Best of Breed approach having almost all our Vendors coming up short in actual working code and or a really bad case of " Sales Hype" had cost the healthcare system $ 10's of millions of dollars. Not to mention a good deal of Job Losses in IT as the blame was laid at IT feet.
Judy came out as we started what would one of the first Epic installs in Ca. I was perhaps the most vocal of people in the room in simply not believing anything a vendor said and sat there glaring at this new vendor which I knew would one more failed system that we would all have to take the b
Judy however was different.
She talked like she actually cared about her companies reputation and success in a way that made you seriously start to believe that maybe , perhaps this vendor had some hope.
The team she brought reflected a very quiet desire to do her bidding as they believed in her vision . They weren't drones by any means but had a " Fire" in them that radiated their confidence with Judy's Vision.
In the next few hours Judy made me into a life long fan.
Simple put she was incredible. She got it. She understood Healthcare , Healthcare IT , MD's , CEO's the whole works.
She understood the " new" Clinical role of the Healthcare CIO.
I have a serious dislike for Vendors who carry big Power Points decks but Judy went up to a white board and truly mesmerized me for 4 hours.
In those couple of hours she drew out a complete diagram of HyperSpace, Clinic's and Hospitals future, laid out time lines and how Epic was going to deliver it.
Then to make her even more of a " Icon" in my CIO vendor jaded heart her company delivered.
Yes, she was more expensive than other vendors. Lessons sadly learned about the " low cost" vendor that is always cutting programmers to save dollars, delivers bad code to make milestones or who really do not have a clue as to the industry has taught me that " Cheap" isn't the same as " Quality".
In the 30 + years of being in the IT world and in the last 20 in healthcare I can only name Epic as a company that lived up to their vision. Epic is also one of the few Vendor in my career that I would a CIO stake my job and reputation on the line for.
Now don't get me wrong I am still a old , jaded Healthcare CIO Type! However I would have more hair and what was left would be a lot less Grey if all of my Vendor did what Judy's team did. Simply deliver what was promised.

I have yet to find any other vendor that can top the " Judy" insight or commitment for excellence in her companies product.

Below is a brief outline of a relevant article from the Sacramento Business Journal dated March, 2007.

The University of California-Davis has spent more and taken longer than expected to set up its electronic health record system, according to an audit of the program released last month, the Sacramento Business Journal reports.

The health system's transition to EHRs began in 2002 and was expected to be completed by late 2006 and cost $76 million. The project is only half complete and so far has cost $85 million, including overall development of the system and other ancillary projects.

Cost overruns are common in EHR projects because it often is difficult to get the support of providers and to train them to use the system, according to the Business Journal. The project's new work plan, from July 2006 to June 2008, is projected to cost $23 million, according to UC-Davis spokesperson Bonnie Hyatt, who noted that the cost includes other ancillary systems and ongoing maintenance.

The audit concluded that management followed university policy on hiring consultants but that there is no evidence that existing staff could not be assigned to do what the university paid outside consultants $17 million to do. The audit recommends the health system tighten oversight of the program and adopt a policy requiring evaluation of internal staff before hiring outside help.

The next stage of UC-Davis's EHR project includes technology upgrades and extending the system to specialty clinics. The health system in about 18 months plans to further expand the program and adopt new functions such as online care plans (Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 3/12).