Electronic health record company Epic is amping up efforts to expand its customer base beyond health systems with a focus on payers, telehealth and life science companies.
The company’s strategy to move beyond hospital EHRs came into focus on Jan. 17 when it launched Showroom, a website for customers to learn about products and services that work within its EHR. Within Showroom, Epic is promoting a feature called Health Grid to help non-health system customers collaborate with its legacy health system customers
“They're not stupid. They're very savvy, smart people,” Alex Lennox-Miller, lead analyst for healthcare information technology at research firm CB Insights, said of Epic. “They have been trying to break out of the walls of the hospital [and] health system market for years.”
The strategy dates back to 2013 when Epic partnered with CVS Health to help the retail giant connect with Epic's health system customers. An Epic spokesperson said that following its deal with CVS the company won business from employer health groups, commercial insurers, specialty diagnostic labs and rehab facilities.
In 2019, Epic started courting payer customers with the launch of its Payer Platform, which allows payers to access data from EHRs. It then shifted into high gear when the company announced in December 2022 it would temporarily shutter its app market, which altered how third-party vendors connected to its software. Many of those changes were finalized last week during the rollout of Showroom.
The series of maneuvers from the Verona, Wisconsin-based company makes it clear Epic is no longer solely focusing on provider customers. It has bigger ambitions, according to Brendan Keeler, head of product at medical claims company Flexpa and a former Epic employee.
“They’re not just for health systems,” Keeler said. “They're really for any actor in healthcare and that's their ambition.”
In terms of its ambitions, an Epic spokesperson said in a statement the company’s core focus remains on provider organizations but acknowledged its customer base has expanded over the last decade.
“In each case, we found that when one of these groups joined the Epic community, there was new value created for patients, providers, and the new group,” Epic vice president Alan Hutchison said in an email. “We have these groups in mind when we talk about the Health Grid.”
What is Epic's Health Grid?
Epic’s Health Grid is a category of relationships encompassing much of the company’s work outside of its core provider customers. Through the program, Epic is giving payers, specialty diagnostic labs and telehealth networks the ability to integrate services directly into provider EHRs. Multiple new and existing programs will fall under the Health Grid umbrella, including Epic's Payer Platform.
Specific programs for medical devices and life sciences will launch at a later, undisclosed date, Epic said during the launch of Showroom.
Epic's Payer Platform network remains unchanged from what was previously offered. Michael Jasperson, senior vice president of provider network health plan operations at Priority Health, a nonprofit insurer owned by Michigan-based Corewell Health, said the insurer uses clinical data from Epic to process claims, automate the flow of data and reduce the number of provider uploads of patient information.
“A lot of our partners run Epic,” Jasperson said. “So, the idea was to invest in a capability that would allow for bi-directional data exchange between care and coverage.”
Epic's work with payers reveals a blueprint for its broader ambitions within healthcare, experts say.
“This is just their beachhead,” Keeler said. “Epic will expand from that beachhead. They want to own the whole ecosystem over time. That's the ambition.That's the big goal.”
While Epic is expanding the idea of what it defines as customers, the company isn't classifying third-party vendors in this way. An Epic spokesperson said these vendors are partners rather than customers.
But vendors that want to plug into Epic’s software through Showroom are required to pay the company. Epic charges a higher price for deeper collaborations.
One of the programs will help health system customers implement technology from a small group of select vendors that have a co-developing relationship with Epic. Epic hasn't listed public pricing on this program, which experts said could have an effect on the third-party vendor market amid Epic’s growing dominance in the hospital EHR space.
Keeler said vendors operating in spaces where Epic is interested should be on notice.
“It's a big increase in Epic’s total addressable market,” Keeler said. “And eats the lunch potentially of a lot of other incumbent software's [total addressable market.]”