Epic Systems, the market leader in electronic health record software (EHR), recently made a quiet but potentially transformative announcement that may finally shake the healthcare industry out of its technological doldrums.
Epic said it is prepared to support the creation of a more open interoperability platform for integration with other diversified healthcare applications. This will attract substantial investment to create software that operates, hopefully seamlessly, within the Epic EHR infrastructure. Expect Epic’s competitors to follow suit, eventually opening up the marketplace of installed EHRs to third-party software developers and the efficiencies of modern, post-EHR technology ecosystem.
Epic’s critics have often denounced the company for selling a mostly closed technology, dampening hopes for the creation of an ecosystem of best-of-breed applications that work together with the EHR to automate much of the care delivery infrastructure beyond patient intake and billing. The value of such an infrastructure is extremely compelling and so the company is under enormous pressure from its customers to become more open.
An open-architecture environment, with published Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and open standards, will improve the functionality of EHRs in myriad ways. Consider innovations such as full-service, secure, HIPAA compliant mobile care networks within and around hospitals, integrated delivery systems and ambulatory care providers. These networks would facilitate powerful point-of-care mobile automation, such as the delivery of interactive care checklists to doctors, nurses and patients; the sharing of patient medical histories to create a comprehensive care record; and automating the patient hospital discharge process with care plans developed digitally by physicians and nurses for their individual patients. These networks integrated to the data available through the EHR will also enable advanced workflow applications. Imagine providers interacting with one another and their patients in real-time, independent of care settings when care considerations and treatments get logged as part of a living patient record and, ultimately, when real-time software and cognitive analytics can aid in the development of patient care options.
The move toward open-standards, cloud-based, mobile-enabled EHR applications will be the biggest development in the healthcare software industry in many years. The passage in 2009 of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act) stimulated the adoption of EHRs, but these systems were largely built on older technology and struggle to incorporate the benefits of internet-based architectures, enabling cloud and mobile computing, and as such, today the EHR value proposition still remains uncertain. However, open standards for interoperability is the key to opening up the EHR infrastructure to all facets of the provider value chain.
One of Psilos’ investments, PatientSafe Solutions, developer of a smart point-of-care mobile communications network, is already working on adapting their product for to Epic’s open source standards. As the CEO of PatientSafe Solutions, Joe Condurso, recently mentioned, “All of our customers are now seeking to optimize their EHR investments through interoperability in order to liberate and activate data with mobile tools for clinicians and patients. It’s an important part of our operations today. Being able to leverage OpenEpic to interoperate and connect with the Epic allows us to deliver more capabilities for our customers to prepare for quality and value-based reimbursement.”
Open architecture EHR as the standard, rather than the exception, should set the stage for a much brighter future for participants at all levels in the healthcare arena. Let’s hope it meets its promise and makes the delivery of U.S. healthcare — not just our medical technology — the envy of the world.
Steve Krupa is the Senior Managing Member of Psilos, a healthcare venture capital firm.