Epic CEO Judy Faulkner opens up about why she's talking to reporters these days

The EHR market has become a media battleground, she said, rather than vendors competing on quality of products and services. So she, and the PR machine Epic is assembling, are girding for the fight. 
By Bernie Monegain
06:33 AM
Epic Judy Faulkner reporters

VERONA, WISCONSIN — Epic Systems CEO Judy Faulkner enters the conference room at the EHR giant’s sprawling – and ever so whimsical – Intergalactic Headquarters at 1979 Milky Way. 

Framed boards with some of her recent favorite quotes bedeck the walls of the conference room, one of several scattered across the campus. As Faulkner reviews some of the axioms, she becomes animated. There’s not one she does not like. She selected them all, and she keeps them fresh by rotating in new ones from time to time.

Her choices are telling. A sampling: “Don’t be a champion of the mediocre.” “If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.” “Be an enabler, not an inhibitor.”

One more taste: “If you see a snake, kill it; don’t form a committee on snakes.” 

[EHRs getting better? Readers rank vendors higher than last year in new survey]

Sitting down with a reporter for an interview is a relatively new experience for Faulkner, who admits she would rather focus on “the work.” Until recently she never thought about taking time away from developing new software and running her nearly $2 billion company. Lately, however, she has been more inclined to talk about how her software works, about EHR usability and interoperability and to discuss how Epic fares on these and other related topics.

Faulkner even brought colorful information sheets and graphs showing stats that support the points she wants to make on R&D, data exchange, interoperability and EHR usability.

Indeed, she discussed those points when Healthcare IT News visited Epic’s campus. And we asked a question more personal than technical in nature: Why the change of mind? What made you start talking to the media now?

“It has to do with our growth in the industry,” she said. “When we were smaller, it was fairly easy just to stay below the radar and concentrate simply on ‘are we developing good software? And are we doing a good job with our customers?’ That’s how life was,” Faulkner recalled.

As she sees it, offering a good product, good service and a good relationship with customers is the best way to compete. Or at least it used to be.

“Even though in my mind that’s a wonderful way to compete, I think what it has become is more of a media battle than a quality-of-products and quality-of-services and support battle,” Faulkner said. “At first we tried to resist that — we couldn’t.”

There were too many misconceptions, too many untruths, like the time Faulkner read an article about a healthcare organization that was having an awful time with its Epic software.That provider, it turned out, was not even an Epic customer. The troubles stemmed from another vendor's EHR.

[Innovation Pulse: Interoperability: Ripe for disruption?]

Then came the Coast Guard’s decision in April 2016 to terminate its $14 million EHR contract with Epic prior to go-live, without a clear explanation as to why. It prompted Faulkner to post the facts she knew about the project on Epic’s website to counter any misconceptions that Epic was at fault.

Situations like these have made Faulkner realize that silence might not be the right response to misinformation and assumptions and that, perhaps, setting the record straight might be a more effective course.

But Faulkner readily admits that Epic – with no marketing department, no press releases and no PR people – has not been prepared on this front. Just recently, in fact, Epic vice president of client success Eric Helsher has picked up some of the vendor’s PR responsibilities.

“One person can’t do everything,” Faulkner said. “There needs to be a team with a strategy. We still don’t have a very good machine in place to be able to work quickly. We’re in the process of it. We’re not done with that.”

Healthcare IT News Editor-at-Large Bernie Monegain traveled to the EHR maker's campus. Other Inside Epic articles: 
⇒ Epic reveals R&D spending outstrips Apple, Google and all its competitors
⇒ A look into Epic's EHR design and usability teams 

⇒ Judy Faulkner refutes rivals' claims about Epic EHR being closed

Twitter: @Bernie_HITN
Email the writer: bernie.monegain@himssmedia.com

Like Healthcare IT News on Facebook and LinkedIn