Epic software is one of the most commonly used systems in the hospital and healthcare market. But is that the right fit for your organization?

Epic software is one of the leading EHR electronic health record systems in the healthcare and hospital market. It’s proven itself quite the niche in the marketplace, it’s been quite successful.

It’s a 40-year-old company that does about $3 billion dollars in revenue. In fact, worldwide, about 3% of patients that go to hospitals or doctors have their visits and their experience process through Epic software. Also, in North America, that number is even higher at over 50%.

Overall, it’s a product that has established a very strong niche in the healthcare marketplace. But the question that we get from a lot of our healthcare clients and hospitals is, does Epic fit our needs? In this blog, I will cover the pros and cons from an independent perspective to give you the best answer.

Strengths

Now, if you’re comparing Epic software to other EHR systems in the marketplace, like Cerner, or McKesson, you may be wondering what are some strengths that make Epic different. First and foremost, it can handle most (if not all) of the needs of most hospitals and healthcare organizations.

This includes workflows such as:

  • Patient visits
  • Scheduling visits
  • Patient records
  • Telehealth
  • Ambulatory services
  • Surgical

All the different components of a hospital and some of those healthcare-related processes can be addressed by Epic. It is one of the few systems in the marketplace that is built for EHR and for hospital operations. This is honestly probably the biggest strength of Epic. It’s been built over the 40 years to focus on this very specific need and important niche.

One of the other advantages that customers of Epic realize is improved workflows, more efficient workflows, more cost-effective workflows, and better patient healthcare. That’s particularly important in situations where it’s literally a matter of life or death. Having the right technology that can help hospitals and healthcare providers provide better service and better outcomes for their patients can be very critical.

Another strength and unique consideration with Epic software is that it has artificial intelligence and business intelligence analytics that allow healthcare providers better predict and understand patient needs. This not only goes for their own patient population but also benchmarking to other patient populations outside of their organization or outside their customer base. This is actually a unique factor of Epic.

There are so many organizations using this software that it provides customers with a very broad and robust set of benchmarks that healthcare providers can use to ascertain problems. It is important to look for trends and understand what their own patients might be experiencing and what the proper solutions for those patients might be.

Another consideration is because Epic is focused on healthcare and EHR is that it allows for regulatory compliance. The regulatory requirements of the healthcare industry can be met by Epic, as well as some of the individual niches and bolt-on or modules that fit within Epic. For example, Epic provides specific modules for dental providers. There’s a lot of very small micro-niches within the overall health care industry, and Epic has the breath to be able to address some of those very needs.

Some of the biggest healthcare organizations in the world are using Epic, they’ve really invested heavily in the R&D to provide the functionality to address some very broad capabilities and needs that these organizations tend to have.

Weaknesses

Just like any solution out there that you might be considering, Epic also has its weaknesses in addition to the strengths that I have spoken about so far. Probably the biggest weakness of Epic and the biggest trade-off that organizations need to make when implementing Epic, is it is not a true enterprise resource planning or ERP system. In other words, it doesn’t necessarily address certain capabilities and needs that hospitals/healthcare providers have outside the realm of patient or customer experience.

For example, a lot of times hospitals will require an ERP system on top of that back to address things like your financials, accounting, inventory management, fleet management, and asset management. Some of those things are outside the direct realm of health records and direct patient care. Most organizations end up needing another system oftentimes to address some of those needs.

Now, to be fair, most ERP systems, on the other hand, don’t do EHR or don’t do health care needs, as well as Epic, can. There are some exceptions or systems like Infor Cloud Suite that have specific capabilities built on top of their ERP system to address the needs of the healthcare market. This is actually one of the few handfuls of ERP vendors in the marketplace that can do that.

Most organizations end up implementing Epic and a back-office ERP system to tie together. In my opinion, that’s probably the biggest weakness of Epic. It simply can’t address all of the needs of a healthcare organization.

Another challenge that some Epic customers have had over the years is integrating and migrating data from Epic to other non-Epic systems. This is a problem that is more historic than recent. In fact, in the past, there has been controversy from Epic customers that weren’t able to move data or integrate data to other non-Epic systems. They have actually resolved that issue and made that less of a problem. They also have health information exchange software, which helps translate and move data back and forth between systems.

Something to be aware of in becoming an Epic customer is that there aren’t as many implementation partners and technical consultants that know Epic as compared to some of the bigger ERP vendors. If you look at the population of Epic consultants, there’s not as many as a Microsoft, SAP, or Oracle, where there’s 10s, if not hundreds of 1000s of consultants throughout the world that knows how the product works and can help you handle the functional and technical aspects of the technology.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty out there, but just not as many, as you might see with some of the bigger vendors. This is especially true if your organization is outside North America. They’re still branching out into other parts of the world. However, outside of North America, that problem is even more prevalent.

There are also new processes or customer behavior changes. The Epic EHR software provides the capability for patients to schedule their own appointments and their own visits to the health care provider. That can be a massive change for an organization that’s used to taking phone calls and emails and scheduling themselves.

Another example is data migration, just moving your legacy data from whatever system or spreadsheets or papers you might have used before, getting that data into Epic is a lot easier said than done.

Healthcare providers typically have more strenuous data migration needs, which again, that’s not a reflection or a flaw of Epic, but it is a challenge and a risk of implementing the technology.

Finally, and arguably most importantly – again, something that’s not a direct reflection of Epic necessarily – but still a very real risk is the stakes of implementation and potential failure.

Most healthcare providers have a very small margin of error for any sort of patient experience disruption, or certainly any sort of urgent care disruption. You want to make sure that you’ve really planned the implementation around the realities of your day-to-day operations and make sure you’ve mitigated risks so that you’re not disrupting the patient experience.

Lastly, one of the most important things to consider as well, is that Epic recently announced in the fall of 2020, that they were implementing a record number of installations of their technology throughout the world, meaning that they had more customers migrating to Epic than they had ever had in the company’s history. That’s great for them. It’s a sign of the success of the company, and it’s a result of their traction in the marketplace.

There is a dark side to this growth that is important to be aware of. Resources are going to be spread thinner, and there’s a higher likelihood of risk when you have that many implementations happening at once. I wouldn’t say it’s a risk that can’t be mitigated, but something to have in mind as you embark on your journey.

Bottom Line: Is Epic the Best Choice?

With all this, we have come to the all-important question, is Epic right for you? Is this the right technology for your healthcare organization’s needs? Is it better than IBM, McKesson, or any of the other providers? I can’t give you an guarantees other than to say it depends on what your requirements and specific priorities are.

In order to help you dive a little bit deeper in understanding whether or not Epic is a good fit for you, check out our 2021 Digital Transformation Report, which includes a number of independent reviews and comparisons of different software solutions in the marketplace, as well as best practices to help companies through their digital transformations.

I hope you found this information useful. If you have any questions or would like to brainstorm ideas related to EHR software, please reach out to me directly. I’m always happy to be an informal sounding board for you and your team.

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