With New Software, Epic Aims to Help Patients Share Health Records

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was signed into law in 2009 as part of President Barack Obama’s stimulus package, created a program known as Meaningful Use. The program’s creation was aimed in part at incentivizing hospitals to switch from paper to digital record-keeping. One provision within Meaningful Use is that patients should have “the ability to view online, download, and transmit their health information.”

Epic has done a significant amount of work to ensure its clients meet Meaningful Use requirements, which were set up to become stricter over time. The dust-up between Biden and Faulkner reportedly stemmed from an objective within the 21st Century Cures Act that patient records have a “single, longitudinal format that is easy to understand.”

Epic has also been dinged publicly on the grounds that its software could be improved in terms of “interoperability,” a term that refers to the ability for health data to flow seamlessly between healthcare providers (no matter which vendor’s records software they use), and to and from outside applications.

In 2013, Kansas City, MO-based Cerner (NASDAQ: CERN), Watertown, MA-based Athenahealth (NASDAQ: ATHN), and five of their peers formed CommonWell Health Alliance. According to the association’s website, its goal is “to drive forward ubiquitous interoperability.”

Noticeably absent from CommonWell is Epic, which belongs to Carequality, another vendor collective. The two bodies essentially share the same goal: make it easier for healthcare providers in the U.S. to exchange patient data.

But certain vendors do not appear to be interested in joining every alliance. During a panel discussion two years ago, Cerner vice president of interoperability Bob Robke invited Epic to join CommonWell, saying the company’s participation would “guarantee” the success of CommonWell. So far, Epic has decided against doing so.

Epic, for its part, touts its Care Everywhere application, which the company says is used to exchange 2 million patient records each day with Epic and non-Epic health systems. Last month, Epic posted a graphic on its website that claimed Care Everywhere has been used to retrieve 3.6 billion documents since 2014, compared to 57,400 documents for CommonWell. (CommonWell is set up as a separate health information exchange, meaning this total presumably does not include documents sent directly from one health system that uses a CommonWell member’s records software to another.)

Epic Systems says its Care Everywhere software far outpaces the CommonWell Health Alliance, a collective several Epic competitors established in 2013, in terms of the volume of patient information hospitals and clinics are exchanging.

“Care Everywhere exchanges every 12 minutes what CommonWell exchanges in a lifetime,” the line below the graphic read.

By adding Share Everywhere to MyChart, Epic seems to be signaling that it sees value in putting health records within closer reach of patients and providers. But it’s unlikely that outside criticism of the company, which has come from physicians, politicians, and (not surprisingly) competing software vendors, will abate anytime soon.

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