healthfinch's Epic App Orchard experience

At healthfinch, we build tools that support practice automation, which means we automate routine clinical work such as prescription refill requests and visit planning. When we founded the company, we made the bold move to say that the EMR will become the platform of the future, and we committed to exclusively building on top of it. Put differently, if the EMR doesn't exist, we don't exist.  

The biggest player in the EMR market, Epic, has taken heat in the past for being closed. However, last September it released its App Orchard and its application development program for third parties. We were one of the first in the App Orchard when it launched last year and this is our story.

First off, I must give credit where credit is due. Epic made a significant shift in approach and strategy by opening up its platform beyond its existing ecosystem. This is not an easy cultural shift, and I must give credit to the leaders at Epic in making this decision. It will be one that transforms the company in the long run.

The question I'm often asked is: How committed is Epic to the App Orchard? To answer that question, it is important to know that in Epic's culture, customers are king. The more the App Orchard experience mimics the customer's experience, the more committed Epic is to the program. Early indications say Epic is taking the program seriously, as some of our recent involvement with the program includes:

  • Attending the first annual App Orchard Conference on Epic's campus in November with an audience comprised of 300 people (50 percent health systems, 50 percent App Orchard companies). The company talked to attendees like customers and gave access to developers, product roadmaps, technical experts, etc. This is a significant change from how Epic has operated in the past.
  • Participating  in a corporate visit, which was structured similarly to traditional customer corporate visits. It was a five-hour session where we collaborated on the agenda, and Epic brought in experts from across the company to help us reach our goals.
  • Tapping into an assigned Epic technical services representative that helps us through challenges just like customers (thanks Seth!).

While all the above represents a great start, we are still in the first chapter of the journey.  Epic's success in the App Orchard will be based on their ability to help companies build, deploy and sell their products faster. If they don't execute, other platforms that have already gotten some initial traction by focusing on the above will prove to be more robust and healthy ecosystems.

These challenges will be particularly important for Epic to build a thriving ecosystem. Building great products with EMR integrations continues to be challenging, particularly around edge cases that you can only uncover when interacting with production systems. This is made more challenging by long sales cycles. Deployment is also a challenge. Each customer requires an integration, which puts Epic at a disadvantage in regard to cloud platforms where one integration is required. Finally, selling is ripe for improvement, as few enterprise customers are used to buying from a marketplace. The more Epic can reduce friction in the sales cycle, the healthier Epic's platform will become as it will attract more compelling offerings.

While we are still in the early days, I remain thrilled to partake in this exciting time in the healthcare industry. The challenges that lie ahead are all surmountable, given that we put our collective minds towards it.

More articles on EHRs:
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64% of providers say EHRs failed to deliver many critical value-based care tools: 10 survey insights

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