Epic is notorious for being “closed.” In fact, people talk about Epic being closed in so many ways, it’s hard to keep up. However, I think they are mostly seen as closed because of Judy’s decision to almost never talk to the media. In fact, it’s pretty rare that any one from Epic talks to the media. I remember when it was groundbreaking news when someone at Forbes did an interview with Judy.
Obviously, opening yourself to the media isn’t essential to making an enterprise sale. Judy and Epic have done quite well without opening themselves up to the media. In fact, their closed approach has in some cases gotten them more media coverage (see this blog post). Regardless of what you think of Epic, they are largely perceived as a black box that we don’t know nearly enough about. They have been more open with who they are and what they do in the past couple years than they ever were before, but that’s really not saying much.
While many love to talk about Epic’s closed nature, are any of the other hospital EHR vendors like Cerner or MEDITECH much more open? Last I checked, I have’t seen any of the CEOs of these companies blogging about their company and sharing their company’s culture and approach to the future publicly like we see in so many other tech companies. I haven’t seen many of the top leadership at any of these companies active on Twitter or other social media. Do any of these companies really show us any of their humanity? I can’t think of any that do.
The same isn’t true in the ambulatory world. We know all about athenahealth from Jonathan Bush who’s never afraid to bear his soul. SRSSoft and SOAPware have had really active CEOs who’ve openly shared their view of the EHR industry. Those are just a few of the examples. Why don’t we see the same from hospital EHR vendors?
I think the reason why is that it’s never been part of the culture of these companies. Changing that is a really hard thing to do. I don’t see it happening anytime soon. The closest we came to it was when the CEOs of many of these companies joined in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Watching those videos made those companies a little more human. I think that’s a great thing for these companies.
While these companies have proven that you don’t need to engage their community in public to be successful, I’d suggest that the company that does start to do this will be at a distinct advantage. If the existing companies don’t decide to do it, then don’t be surprised if a new company disrupts the market with a more open and human approach. The incumbent EHR vendors won’t know what hit them and likely won’t be able to change the culture fast enough to fight them off.
Assuming you’re working on and doing amazing things for your customers, transparency can be an amazing marketing tool. If you’re not, then it’s better to hide in the shadows.