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What to Make of Epic’s Interoperability Work with Surescripts

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

While Epic Systems has been the subject of criticism for its perceived unwillingness to ensure the interoperability of its platform with other EHR and health IT systems, the organization appears to be playing nicely with the nation’s largest health information network to improve the accuracy and efficiency of electronic prescribing for Epic EHR users.

The Wisconsin-based EHR company is working in tandem with Surescripts to incorporate the latter’s medication prior authorization tool available to its customers and at the same time allying itself with one of leading champions of interoperability in the United States.

“We’ve been working on interoperability for more than a decade, beginning with e-prescribing, and advancing today into more complex types of clinical messages,” David Yakimischak, EVP and General Manager of Medication Network Services at Surescripts.

“There has been specific and measurable progress, thanks to the collaboration and coordination of the many healthcare organizations connected to the Surescripts network — this includes pharmacies, hospitals, pharmacy benefit managers, and hundreds of health technology vendors,” Yakimischak continues. “Electronic prior authorization is a great example of the progress we’re making — not just with Epic, but with other technology vendors and PBMs as well — to break down silos and get the right information to the right place at the right time.”

Over the past several months, various reports have emerged that raise questions about the ability of Epic EHR users to share information with non-Epic users.

“Epic is seen by many competitors and providers as not playing well with others,” Mark Allphin, the author of KLAS’s Epic HIE 2014: Everywhere, Elsewhere, or Nowhere Else, said earlier this year. “Yet the providers we interviewed told us a more complex story. Data is being shared, but the effort required to get there can be very different depending on whether you are on the Epic side of the exchange or with some other vendor.”

This was followed by Congressional interest in the company’s approach to interoperability as part of a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, which was followed by Epic retaining the services of a Washington lobbyist Brad Card of Card & Associates to improve the very private company’s public image, at least on the Hill. Most recently Epic became the focus of reports (some scurrilous) that its founder’s political affiliations were responsible for its EHR not being implicated for its role in the poor handling of an Ebola patient in Texas.

So it is that Epic’s work on interoperability is not a matter of black and white but perhaps as gray as the industry as a whole. But for Yakimischak and Surescripts, the outlook is positive.

“Our collective ability to share health information is addressing a major pain point for providers that ultimately saves time, money and improves the quality of the entire e-prescribing process,” he explains. “This is the definition of interoperability, and Epic’s a meaningful partner for Surescripts as we work to connect the entire healthcare system.”

Epic has yet to respond to a request for commentary at the time of publishing this article.





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