Epic, CEO Faulkner Confront Life as a Big Tech Company in 2018

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leaders in hospital IT departments have words like “innovation,” “analytics,” “digital,” and “data” in their job titles, she said.

“Most of those titles barely existed 10 years ago,” Faulkner said.

Faulkner, who reportedly decided against raising money from venture capital firms to fuel Epic’s growth, said she sometimes finds the hype that has permeated the industry to be off-putting.

“There’s so much money in Silicon Valley for startups,” she said. “When I go to an innovation conference, I feel like a piece of meat walking around dogs. And I like dogs.”

Startups sit at one end of the spectrum of technology businesses. At the other are giant gadget and software makers like Amazon, Alphabet, and Apple. In addition to those three, Faulkner mentioned IBM (NYSE: IBM), Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX), and Walmart (NYSE: WMT) as large corporations seeking to create the future of healthcare.

It’s too early to say how they’ll fare, but some big companies from outside the industry have struggled to impact healthcare in the past—see Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault Insights. Faulkner said in her keynote that it’s hard to make meaningful advances in an area as complex as health IT.

“The [electronic health record] is in the most complex area in the world, which is healthcare,” she said. “I think it’s more complex than rocket science.”

But new technologies and care models offer the potential to reduce costs and improve patient outcomes, industry leaders have said.

Healthcare providers are increasingly seeking to knock down the traditional walls of the hospital or clinic and engage patients on their terms, whether they’re at home or on the go, Faulkner has said previously. On Tuesday, she said Epic is continuing to develop tools that capture what health researchers call the social determinants of health—things like access to transportation and healthy food where a patient lives.

Faulkner’s comment about “going beyond the walls” of traditional healthcare settings fit with the “Great Outdoors” theme of this year’s Users Group Meeting.

Each year, Faulkner dons a costume that reflects the theme of the conference. On Tuesday, she appeared ready to hit the trails, decked out in a brown scoutmaster’s hat and dress with sewn badges, hiking boots, leggings, and a purple kerchief.

The handful of Epic employees who spoke about recent customer success stories and new features the company has in the works were dressed as scouts, park rangers, fishermen, canoe paddlers, ski patrol members, cave spelunkers, and other outdoor adventurers.

Faulkner spoke about her years as a girl scout and camping trips she’s taken to the western U.S. and Canada as an adult. She also reminisced about stargazing. Faulkner compared the spectacle of looking up at a seemingly infinite array of stars to the data Epic’s customers have on their patients, and the possibilities all of that information presents for making new discoveries and improving care. Faulkner used the comparison to pitch a database of non-identifying patient information that Epic is compiling with a network of research partners. She has ambitions for the network, which Epic calls Cosmos, to become “the world’s largest database of clinical information.”

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