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Blog: Not invited to the dance

Where's Epic?

In his keynote address Tuesday, cardiologist and healthcare information technology futurist Dr. Eric Topol asked that question.

The context was a much-ballyhooed consortium of five health IT vendors announced Monday at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference in New Orleans.

They joined hands to launch a not-for-profit consortium called the CommonWell Health Alliance, with the stated aim of improving health information interoperability. The founding members of the consortium are Allscripts Healthcare Solutions, Athenahealth, Cerner Corp., Greenway Medical Technologies, and McKesson Corp., along with its connectivity unit RelayHealth. At the launch, the founders said the consortium is open to everyone.

But, on the screen during that point of his speech, Topol posted an old photo from an early 1960s TV sitcom, “Car 54 Where Are You?” The series with the catchy theme song was about two bumbling New York police officers, Gunther Toody and Francis Muldoon, played by veteran character actors Joe E. Ross and Fred Gwynne, who couldn't tie their shoelaces but always managed to do right thing in the end.

The combination of the question, “Where's Epic?” and the photo of those two sad sacks was good for a laugh, unless, of course, you worked for Epic.

Carl Dvorak, president of Verona, Wis.-based Epic Systems Corp., said members of his team took the reference as a direct shot, which was interpreted by several as “humiliating.”

The shot, if in fact it was aimed at Epic and not the conveners of the consortium, missed the mark.

Epic is the No. 1 purveyor of so-called “complete” EHRs for hospitals and No. 1 for complete EHRs for physicians and other “eligible” professionals who have used certified EHRs to meet federal meaningful use criteria under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, according to a federal database created by the CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS.

“We're not in it, in part because we were not invited,” Dvorak said. He said he only heard rumblings about the compact, but didn't know any specifics about it until the day before the announcement.

Leaders of several other major vendors I spoke with at the HIMSS show this week who weren't invited to sing “Kumbayah” with the founding five include Girish Kumar Navani, CEO of eClinicalWorks, the No. 3 developer of complete EHRs for eligible professionals in the CMS/ONC database, and Dr. Vishal Agrawal, president of healthcare solutions for Harris Corp., which has an $80 million contract to help the vast healthcare organizations of the Veterans Affairs Department and Defense Department achieve interoperability.

Dvorak said Epic already has achieved interoperability with consortium member Greenway and fully supports the ONC's Connect and Direct interoperability standards development effort, as well as HealtheWay, the public-private partnership that supports the eHealth Exchange, formerly known as the Nationwide Health Information Network.

“The standards we support are at ONCs Connect project and Direct project,” Dvorak said. “We would hope they would join the HealtheWay. If that alliance is toward that purpose, God bless, then. If this creates a set of competitive standards, what a tragedy that would be for the American people.”

That'd be about right.


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