This week, the relatively new HLTH conference is hosting HLTH VRTL (I guess they have something against vowels). No surprise that the HLTH conference has gone virtual like pretty much all the other health IT conferences. They still have their big name list of conferences speakers, but I’m interested to see if sponsors and attendees get the same value. In the virtual world, it’s hard to catch the speaker after their talk or in the lunch room to create a deeper connection. From an education standpoint, all the sessions are recorded and available for those attending the event.
Conference logistics aside, today one of the first sessions was Judy Faulkner, CEO and Founder of Epic being interviewed by George Halvorson, Chair, Institute for InerGroup Understanding. This was an interesting pairing since George Halvorson was previously the CEO and Chairman of Kaiser which famously did a multi-billion dollar Epic implementation back in 2010 under his leadership. Judy and George obviously go way back.
While the interview itself was pretty friendly and light, there were a number of things that Judy shared about Epic that were pretty interesting and we’ll highlight a few of them this week. The first was how they responded to a request to implement Epic at thousands of new beds in 3 days. Here’s what Judy shared:
We [Epic] got calls from one of the states to say that they needed several thousand extra beds with our software in it and a brand new site and they’d like it in 3 days. 3 days! 3 Days!
It takes a lot more than 3 days to put a brand new system in. And then we figured, ok, we have to figure out how to do it. And we actually got it done for a number of different places. The average was between 1 day and 7 days. I think we put in 92,000 new beds with software because we had to learn how to redo everything.
We all know how quickly things moved during COVID-19 and how fast temporary hospitals and ICUs were set up. Many don’t realize how important it was for healthcare organizations to be able to setup access to their EHR as part of these setups. While some of the requirements were waived for these temporary locations, many were still in place including the need to document the visit. Thus, it’s no surprise that Epic got the call to implement their EHR at these new locations.
While Judy didn’t dive into how they were able to implement Epic so quickly in these new locations, I believe they used their Epic Community Connect partners to be able to roll this out so fast. For those not familiar with Community Connect, it’s where someone like Cleveland Clinic who is already an Epic customer makes Epic available to community partners. This is how Epic approaches smaller organizations that can’t afford to buy Epic directly. Instead, they can buy Epic from a Community Connect partner. In many ways, it’s like adding a new location to an existing Epic install.
All of this said, implementing 92,000 new beds in 1-7 days is still an incredible effort by Epic and those healthcare organizations that helped. Hearing this experience, I’m taken back to an article I wrote back in 2010 where I recounted the story of how I implemented an EMR (it was 2010 before EHR became in vogue) in a week. In the comments of that article, hospital CIO, Will Weider responded, “I stopped reading when it was asserted that an EMR was implemented in a week.”
Obviously, I was talking about a solo doctor ambulatory EMR implementation while Will Weider was looking at a health system EMR implementation. I still wouldn’t recommend an ambulatory EHR implementation in a week, but it does highlight the difference. Many EHR implementations at hospitals and health systems can take years with multiple phases across the organization. The EHR implementation at the VA and DoD may be more easily measured in decades vs years.
After sharing this COVID-19 experience, it was interesting to hear Judy say that one of the learnings coming out of COVID-19 was that there was a need to make it easier to implement Epic. She didn’t dive into details of how this will manifest itself, but it definitely seemed like this had become more of a priority to her because of COVID.
Judy also mentioned the success of a number of virtual Epic go lives. We highlighted some of the details of the first virtual Epic Go Live. No doubt the future of go lives is going to change in the wake of COVID-19. Everyone I talk to says that virtual won’t replace all of the in-person help needed for go-lives, but a mix of virtual and in-person is definitely going to save healthcare organizations money during future EHR go-lives.
What changes do you think we’ll see from Epic because of the experience with COVID-19? Up next we’ll share some of the things Judy shared in regards to the Epic Health Research Network.