Goal of Epic Summit for Non-Clients Is Better Health Records Sharing

For years, the patient records software company Epic Systems has held an annual conference, which attracts thousands of leaders from hospitals and clinics that use Epic’s software to the company’s headquarters in Verona, WI.

The customer conference, known as Users Group Meeting, or UGM, has now inspired a spinoff, Epic says. On Sept. 26, the company will host the inaugural “unUGM.” (It will take place a few weeks after UGM, which will be held later this month.) The one-day summit is for healthcare providers that don’t use Epic’s software, but want to learn and discuss how to exchange patient information with nearby organizations that use Epic.

The ultimate goal is improving interoperability, a term that refers to the ability of health data to flow between healthcare providers (no matter which vendor’s software they use), and to and from outside applications.

“Access to a patient’s information, regardless of where he or she has been seen, helps providers deliver the best patient care,” says Dave Fuhrmann, Epic’s vice president of interoperability, in a prepared statement. “The first unUGM is another way we’re reaching out to the leaders of health systems using other electronic health records [software]—or even no electronic health records—to help them get connected to the Epic users in their communities.”

More than 200 million people have a current medical record administered by Epic software, the company says on its website. Epic says its 300-plus customers exchanged nearly 90 million patient records last month using the company’s Care Everywhere application.

Epic and some of its competitors in the health IT industry have nevertheless received criticism in recent years for not doing more to facilitate the exchange of records between organizations that use its products and ones that use software from competing vendors.

unUGM appears to be the latest pillar of a multifaceted strategy by Epic to improve on the status quo when it comes to interoperability.

The company says attendees will have the chance to learn about options for exchanging data with other hospitals and clinics located near where they live. Those options include state and regional data-sharing networks known as health information exchanges, and Carequality, a national vendor collective to which Epic belongs.

Last fall, Epic introduced tools within its patient portal, MyChart, allowing a user to share his or her health records with physicians who document information on paper or use software that isn’t able to receive data from the patient’s regular care provider. Epic says hospital executives who attend unUGM can get more information on the technology, which the company calls Share Everywhere. Epic says the software tools can give clinicians at organizations that don’t use its products “controlled access to Epic charts and data.”

Meanwhile, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) said earlier this year it would give iPhone users access to parts of their medical records through the company’s Health app. Apple said it would start by introducing the new iPhone features at 12 large U.S. healthcare providers, several of which use Epic’s software. Epic said at the time that it was pleased to be a part of Apple’s move into health records. More than 75 hospital and clinic networks now support Apple’s iOS Health Records program, according to a VentureBeat report published last week.

Registration for unUGM is open through Sept. 14. Registration is not open to third-party vendors or consultants, Epic says on the event website.

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