June 21, 2024


Epicurean Science & Tech

With tech launches, Epic Systems looks to future of healthcare accessibility | Business News

10 min read

Just weeks after releasing new software for independent medical groups, Verona-based health records giant Epic Systems Corp. is making even more moves that aim to increase health care accessibility and emphasize in-office work in the wake of COVID-19.

Dane County’s largest employer recently launched its first-ever customer relationship management technology for health systems called Cheers.

The company, with $3.8 billion in 2021 revenue, is also getting close to unveiling a new application that will allow physicians to research best care practices for patients using real-world data called Best Care for My Patient.

“We’ve always been really good at helping clinicians keep record of patient care,” said Epic director of clinical informatics Jacqueline Gerhart. “What we are trying to do … is take that to the next level. It’s not just about having information, but using that information for good … from access to care, to figuring out the (health) ecosystem around the individual and bringing that all together.”

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Epic Systems said this week it also has plans to continue expanding its Verona facilities as it hires more workers, in addition to its overseas campus in the United Kingdom. To date, Epic has 11,300 employees (10,000 in Verona) — and 250 million patients around that world that hold records through the company.

On Wednesday, employees moved into Epic’s new Mystery facility with 350 office spaces. Later this year, the company will open its Castaway building, also with 350 offices — and for which construction will remain underway until the end of this year, said senior director of facilities Jim Schumacher, adding that three more campus additions are slated for the next half decade.

Of recent COVID-influenced trends in workers vying for occupations that offer remote and hybrid work options over commuting to an office, Schumacher said Epic’s campus offers a “home-type” atmosphere, which promotes a “very collaborative environment.”

“The development teams need to be integrated,” he said. “The campus was built with that in mind. We are not a work-from-home campus.”

Epic Systems

Epic employees use an enclosed walkway that connects the new Mystery Building, at left, to the Jules Verne Building on the Storybook Campus in Verona.

A few weeks ago, Epic additionally announced Garden Plot, which creates holistic and integrated patient records for independent medical groups.

People who run independent health practices often use up a lot of time, staff and resources to meet evolving regulatory requirements. Those same groups might also use paper — an unusual concept in modern doctors’ offices — or a combination of separate digital tools to keep tabs on a patient’s health.

Garden Plot came about after the American Medical Association in 2020 found that nearly half of U.S. physicians worked for independent medical practices, and Epic received several phone calls from providers amid the pandemic asking for a new, seamless and permanent way to connect with patients online — besides using Facebook or Zoom. The company also found that 900 U.S. health systems don’t yet use Epic tech. A full launch for Garden Plot is set for August.

Making connections

For patients who use Epic’s MyChart app, which allows them to view test results, schedule appointments, communicate with their doctors and more, Cheers can send out a “proactive series of communications” if a particular kind of care is needed, such as a cancer screening, said product manager Sam Seering, adding they can come in the form of emails, text messages and calls.

On the health care side, Cheers “can connect to an organization’s phone system to automatically pull up the caller’s record, and suggest additional topics of conversation based on what the organization knows about the caller” like if they need to schedule a COVID vaccine appointment, Seering explained.

He added that “dozens” of organizations currently use the software and Epic expects a large “ramp up” of users over the next year.

Cheers was born out of a request among several Epic customers who wanted to better connect with their patients, especially as COVID fears and financial struggles pushed a move toward online appointments, as well as the consolidation and closure of health systems across the country.

Epic Systems

Epic’s new Mystery Building, center, with the Castaway Building under construction, at left, on the Storybook Campus in Verona.

A Bloomberg report found in 2020 that more than three dozen hospitals had entered bankruptcy that year. The American Hospital Association also said in 2020 that 117 hospitals had closed since 2010. In the first three quarters of 2020, 17 rural hospitals alone closed, the Association said.

“There are a few main areas of focus that we have over the next few years native to Epic communication platforms so that organizations don’t have to contract with third-party vendors,” Seering said of whether to expect more software launches like Cheers in the future.

Research as a resource

Meanwhile, Best Care for My Patient is to be populated by Cosmos, a dataset with over 135 million patient records and 2.2 billion clinician visits, Gerhart said, adding that Best Care has been in development for two years.

When a doctor has Epic’s Hyperspace app pulled up on a computer during an office visit, the idea is to analyze the patient’s own history along with Cosmos real-world data. The physician can then use this information to help inform their patient’s clinical care.

Best Care for My Patient is expected to go live within the next year to year-and-a-half, she said.

Epic also last fall unveiled EpicShare, a website that’s a space for health care executives and really, anyone, to learn about the company’s software.

The health records giant additionally two years ago launched the Epic Health Research Network, an online journal for its data insights — an effort accelerated by the pandemic.

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