Has Epic Fostered Any Real Healthcare Innovation?

I saw the following tweet and was really struck by the question.

I think we could broaden the question even more and ask if any EHR vendor has really fostered healthcare innovation. I’m sorry to say that I can’t think of any real major innovation from any of the top hospital EHR companies. They all seem very incremental in their process and focused on replicating previous processes in the digital world.

Considering the balance sheets of these companies, that seems to have been a really smart business decision. However, I think it’s missing out on the real opportunity of what technology can do to help healthcare.

I’ve said before that I think that the current EHR crop was possibly the baseline that would be needed to really innovate healthcare. I hope that’s right. Although, I’m scared that these closed EHR systems are going to try and lock in the status quo as opposed to enabling the future healthcare innovation.

Of course, I’ll also round out this conversation with a mention of meaningful use. The past 3-5 years meaningful use has defined the development roadmap for EHR companies. Show me the last press release from an EHR company about some innovation they achieved. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any and that’s because all of the press releases have been about EHR certification and meaningful use. Meaningful use has sucked the innovation opportunity out of EHR software. We’ll see if that changes in a post-meaningful use era.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • In migrating from paper to electronic systems in any business, sometimes the most compelling software “innovation” is buffering users from change, or creating the appearance that things haven’t changed. PatientKeeper’s software design premise is that physicians don’t want to change their workflow when they move from paper to computers. I believe forcing workflow changes on physicians has done more to hinder physician adoption of EHRs than any other single factor, with the possible exceptions of poor user interfaces and unreasonably long training requirements.

    -Donald Burt, MD
    CMO, PatientKeeper

  • “Innovation is finding a better way of doing something.[1] Innovation can be viewed as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, in-articulated needs, or existing market needs”

    The EHR has met market needs. Healthcare needs have now encompassed and focused on the broader constituency associated with healthcare. While the physician is a key component of healthcare they are one component. The business and practice of healthcare has/is continuously evolving to meet the needs of the other constituents, such as the patient, guarantors, whether they be third party insurance companies and/or government agencies. There are also the varying medical certification and licensing department as well as the oversight departments that maintain national policy and best practices within the healthcare context.

    The EHR is innovative in that it created a national standard for health record documentation and subsequent data retrieval. The EHR also provided a standardized documentation template that supports proper auditing and oversight within the IT perspective. This is substantiated with the many reports that can be generated from the common documentation template.

    As the nation nears the 100% mark of hospitals and affiliated clinics onboard with their respective EHR, the HIE will then begin to link the various systems within each state, country and world.

    Innovation is realized in increments of time and practice. The EHR dynamic has laid the foundation for all future healthcare documentation innovation. We now have national starting point for the continued evolution and healthcare maturation process.

    Healthcare is more than the physician. Healthcare is a cooperative of a multitude of equal, but different constituents. Healthcare is a both a business and a medical practice. One is not viable without the other. The EHR provides a single format where all things medicine can now branch out from. A common repository.

  • Scott,
    “The EHR is innovative in that it created a national standard for health record documentation and subsequent data retrieval. The EHR also provided a standardized documentation template that supports proper auditing and oversight within the IT perspective.”

    I’m not sure I agree with this at all. There’s almost nothing that’s standard between EHR vendors and how they document. Even within specific EHR vendors it’s not standard. One Epic implementation is very different than another one.

  • I definitely don’t agree with the statement regarding standardization. There is no standard for health record documentation at all. None. It’s a data free-for-all. Garbage in, garbage out.

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