In my previous article on telehealth adoption due to COVID-19, I highlighted a number of telehealth adoption numbers that Epic shared. In the article, I asked the question about which telehealth applications these Epic customers were using. All of the Epic telehealth implementations I’d seen first hand were using Vidyo, but there were 15 telehealth providers in the Epic App Orchard (Note: Now there’s 16). I reached out to Epic to see if I could get the answer to the question of which telehealth applications Epic customers were using since Epic had supposedly “helped with the implementation.” However, I haven’t heard back from them. Not that this is any surprise since they only recently started engaging with the press at all.
A source of Healthcare IT Today recently reached out to let us know that Epic is working to develop their own Epic telehealth offering. The source told us that Epic was working with Twilio’s newly launched HIPAA compliant video application in order to offer their own telehealth solution within Epic. Word is that Epic has already started offering this solution to provider organizations and is an interesting move for Epic who’s largely touted the built in Verona approach to software development.
Let’s take a deeper look into what this move could mean. First, Epic would now be a competitor with 16 other telehealth organizations that are participating in Epic’s App Orchard. Imagine how it must feel to be one of these companies who now has Epic as a competitor. Those Epic App Orchard fees must really sting. Publicly they can’t really say anything about it, but no doubt privately they’ll be having a very different conversation. Plus, I’m sure many are wondering why Epic would go with Twilio that isn’t even part of Epic App Orchard instead of a company that had already committed to Epic. Granted, Twilio is quite different than those telehealth applications in Epic App Orchard.
However, it’s not hard to see how an application integrated by Epic is going to have a much deeper integration than any of the other telehealth applications in Epic App Orchard. That puts the Epic telehealth application at a distinct advantage. Although, this also illustrates how Epic could still do a lot more to open up APIs for their third party developers.
Whenever you create a third-party “app store”, there’s a challenging dance that has to be played with assuring members of your commitment to them as partners and allaying their fears that you’re not going to just become a competitor and take all the business away from them.
Assuming that Epic is creating their own telehealth solution, this will cause a lot of damage to Epic’s App Orchard efforts not only in the telehealth category, but for every other App Orchard partner. If Epic is willing to start competing with their third party partners in telehealth, then what’s to keep them from doing the same in all the other categories as well. That’s a bad look for Epic as they’ve tried to build up their third-party vendor community.
We’ve seen this happen many times before. The most obvious to me was Twitter. When they started they created a great API that was used by many to create amazing third party applications to participate on Twitter. Slowly over time, Twitter basically created all of the functionality you could find in these third party applications and basically put many of the third party vendor partners out of business.
Hopefully it’s not quite as bad in healthcare since most of the Epic App Orchard partners have more business opportunities than just with Epic directly. There are plenty of other EHR vendors out there beyond Epic and many of the partners have functionality that Epic would be unlikely to copy (at least one would hope). However, it’s still a massive mistake for Epic to alienate this third party vendor community.
As we’ve written about before, Epic is going to be able to do a lot of great things, but they’re not going to be able to do everything. So, it’s to their advantage to embrace a vibrant third party “app store” that fulfills the other needs of their customers. Is the telehealth revenue opportunity for Epic that great that they would want to alienate their third party developer community? Plus, don’t be surprised if the price of telehealth services drops in this hyper competitive market. Are their telehealth partners not providing the services their customers need? Hard to imagine this is the case or if it is the case it’s because Epic needed better APIs for these partners.
By at least some reports, Epic has been doing some great work supporting their clients amidst COVID-19. It just seems odd that Epic would choose to roll out their own telehealth solution instead of doubling down on their telehealth partner relationships.
UPDATE: Twilio issues a press release that Epic has indeed built their “native” telehealth platform using Twilio as we reported.