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Epic Launches New Interoperability Features to Enable User Collaboration

January 30, 2018
by Heather Landi
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Epic Systems, the Verona, Wis.-based electronic health record (EHR) vendor of which some 190 million patients have an electronic record on, has launched a new functionality called One Virtual System Worldwide to enable healthcare providers on the Epic EHR to not only exchange more patient data, but to interact with each other on that data.

According to Epic executives in a Jan. 30 press release, the new functionality leverages its Care Everywhere platform and moves the Epic community from the ability to “view more” to being able to “do more” across all organizations using the Epic EHR platform.

There are three parts to the new functionality—gathering data, presenting the combined data in an easy-to-read format and enabling providers to take action across organizations. The “Come Together” functionality enables Epic to find health records for individual patients from various organizations, including Epic clients, hospitals on other EHRs, the government, and networks, to bring data together.

The work builds on Epic’s previous interoperability initiatives, which already allows Epic providers to exchange records—over 2.3 million patient records are exchanged per day, and approximately two-thirds of the people in the United States have a current record on Epic, according to the company.

Via MyChart, its patient portal, and technology Epic calls “Happy Together,” once the data is brought together, it is then presented in a single, merged view, helping clinicians eliminate gaps in care, alerting them to possible opioid overuse or other medication problems, and helping them deliver better care faster. This functionality also lets patients see a combined view of their healthcare record without having to log in and out of different portals, the company said.

Over the last decade we expanded the amount of data that customers can exchange, going well beyond industry requirements. Now, our new functionality ‘Working Together’ will allow clinicians to work across Epic organizations to improve the care for their patients,” Dave Fuhrmann, Epic vice president of interoperability, said in a statement.

The “Working Together” technology encourages providers to collaborate with one another. For instance, according to Epic, this functionality enables providers using the Epic EHR to see image thumbnails from other Epic customers, and, once they choose the image they want to examine, Epic goes to the source and retrieves a reference quality image for their review. As another example, schedulers referring a patient to another Epic customer can directly book the appointment in that system.

Clinicians also can send secure messages directly to clinicians at other organizations, which is especially useful for those receiving referrals who want to have a deeper dialogue. The functionality enables provides to search data received from other organizations and examine discrete data as well as free text, such as in notes and documents. What’s more, patients can use Epic’s self-assessment triage and then self-schedule a tele-visit with their organization, or with another Epic organization if their own is not available.

According to Epic, additional functionalities that are in the pipeline include allowing providers to perform duplicate checks. For instance, a clinician will receive an alert that the order just placed, such as for imaging or for a lab test, has recently been completed at another organization and may not be needed. Also, patients with a referral from one Epic organization will be able to see appointment options from the other Epic organization and schedule directly.

“Ten years ago, MemorialCare was the first organization in the world to exchange a patient record via Care Everywhere. Of significance, the exchange capability was inherent with the Epic system. No incremental effort was required, and the results were available to clinicians in their native workflows, something that we had not been able to achieve in working with health information exchanges (HIEs). Now we are taking a big step forward in interoperability by being part of a single virtual system with the rest of the Epic community,” Scott Joslyn, CIO at MemorialCare Health System, said in a statement.

Deploying Epic across our organization has not only enabled us to become deeply integrated within our own organization, but by leveraging Care Everywhere we have been able to share patient information across other organizations caring for that patient. Now, with One Virtual System Worldwide, we are excited to be able to join a connected community that we think can dramatically improve our efficiency and the quality of care we deliver to our patients,” Darren Dworkin, CIO at Cedars-Sinai Health System, said in a prepared statement.

Epic was named a Most Interesting Vendor by Healthcare Informatics earlier this year, and in an in-depth profile of the company, Faulkner and COO Carl Dvorak exclusively conversed with Healthcare Informatics’ Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland about how Epic has been able to build its market dominance over the years.

To this point, with revenues of $2.5 billion in 2016, the privately owned company ranked sixth on this year’s Healthcare Informatics 100 list of the top healthcare IT vendors in the U.S., the third EHR/clinical information systems vendor on the list.

In his profile of Epic published last May, Hagland wrote that during his interviews with company executives last spring at Epic’s Verona headquarters, Faulkner and Dvorak expressed satisfaction with where Epic is right now in the marketplace, and challenged some of the contentions of critics. “Certainly, both believe that their company’s ongoing financial success silences all criticism. The company is expanding so rapidly, in fact, that Faulkner says it’s hard to give a precise number of customer organizations, both because it is winning contracts at such a fast pace, but also because many of Epic’s customers are merging with and acquiring each other. So, Faulkner says, ‘about 400’ is probably the most accurate number one can turn to.

Hagland further quotes Faulkner: “Sometimes you have two customers that merge, and other times, you have a customer that breaks apart, so it really is hard to estimate,” she says.

In terms of hospital-based organizations and physician practices active in its “Connect” EHR-share program, “We have 160 hospitals and 32,500 physicians, all connecting, via Connect,” she notes, Hagland wrote.

“Meanwhile, 84 percent of our customers extend out” their contracts to provide EHR functionality to affiliated practices and organizations. What’s more, Epic allows patient care organizations to extend out to federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), free of charge, within certain limits. So a lot of patient care organizations are getting connected, Hagland noted in his article.



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