Epic polishes its interoperability image

‘They are the most interoperable EHR company’
By Erin McCann
01:54 PM
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Electronic health record behemoth Epic Systems has inked a deal with a lobbying firm to work on its interoperability image – one that has left a perception that Epic has a closed system that does not easily work well with other EHR systems.

Verona-Wis.-based Epic hired Card & Associates back in August following recent public criticism over how the EHR company sells closed systems.

"There's been a lot of misinformation out there," said A. Bradford Card, the firm's principal, to Politico. "I've had a number of productive meetings with Congress to educate members and staff so they know who Epic is and the great story they have to tell. They are the most interoperable EHR company."

Epic's interoperability image also proves critical at this time, as the company just announced in June it was teaming up with tech giant IBM to compete for the DoD Healthcare Management Systems Modernization Contract, a system that heavily relies on full integration capabilities. Epic will go against other EHR heavyweights Allscripts and Cerner in competing for the bid, as is PwC, teamed up with MedSphere Systems.

Congressman Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., in a July hearing on Capitol Hill was among the most outspoken over the vendor's supposed lack of interoperability, mentioning Epic by name.

"And Congress has spent, as we all know, something like $24 billion over the past six years buying products to facilitate interoperability only to have the main vendor under the program, Epic, sell closed platforms," Gingrey told the Energy & Commerce Committee back in July. "Do you believe that the federal government and the taxpayers are getting their money's worth subsidizing products that are supposed to be interoperable but they are not?"

A month earlier, Edmund Billings, MD, chief medical officer at Medsphere Systems, the developer of the OpenVista EHR, made similar charges. "While Epic preaches interoperability, it practices non-interoperability and vendor lock," he wrote back in June.

Then in August, Epic President Carl Dvorak went on the defensive in testimony before ONC's Health IT Policy Committee.

"We connect to 26 other vendors' systems, 21 HIEs, 29 HISPs and 28 eHealth Exchange members," with 20 more coming online soon, Dvorak told the committee. Moreover, the company has enabled "about 20 billion data transactions per year, over 12,000 different interfaces across our 320 customers, to about 600 other vendor systems – including 88 public health agencies, 18 research societies, 51 immunization registries across 46 states and 17 research registries."

Touting its interoperability abilities, Epic recently announced it had teamed up with tech giant IBM to compete for the Department of Defense Healthcare Management Systems Modernization contract, which is slated to replace the existing Military Health System.

According to the company, the Epic customer community – currently including 100 million patients – exchanges more than 2.2 million records each month with other EHR platforms, HISPs, HIEs, and Department of Veterans Affairs, DoD and the Social Security Administration.

Healthcare IT News readers weighed in on the news, many of them critical over Epic calling itself interoperable. “I didn't know EPIC had an "open architecture,” commented one reader on the news that Epic would compete for the DoD contract.

“To be successful EPIC team must embrace interoperability vs. their current ‘Sony Beta-max’ like approach to growing market share. EPIC will need to embrace connection to all HIEs nationwide and make their ambulatory EMR a whole lot easier to use."