Judy Faulkner: 5 areas of focus for Epic right now

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CNBC's Bertha Coombs interviewed Epic CEO Judy Faulkner during a virtual healthcare event on May 12 and asked about how the company has contributed to the COVID-19 response efforts and what to expect from the EHR giant in the future.

"I think of our health systems as heroes," she said. "And we see our job as being heroes helping heroes, and we're proud of that."

Over the past several weeks, she said one of the big ways that Epic has been able to help its health system clients is through telehealth; many of its customers experienced a hundred-fold increase in telehealth. Ms. Faulkner said during the pandemic Epic has trained around 5,000 people on telehealth at around 200 health systems. Epic also has a COVID-19 dashboard that helps health systems track test metrics and capacity.

Ms. Faulkner also discussed a few projects Epic is working on for the future:

1. Epic has access to hundreds of millions of patient records and has spent time during the pandemic examining whether medications are effective to treat COVID-19. She said the company has looked at around 30 medications to see if any of them would protect patients exposed to COVID-19; so far, none of the medications have panned out. The company is now looking at data on plasma therapy and remdesivir to figure out whether the treatments are effective for COVID-19 patients.

Ms. Faulkner said the company is looking at other questions as well. "One of the really interesting things that we're doing now is [examining] whether you can get it twice," she said. "We're looking at patients who had COVID, then got better, then did they have COVID again because clearly we want to see whether the antibodies are protective."

2. Artificial intelligence has always been part of the Epic EHR to some degree, Ms. Faulkner said, and now the company is tackling the challenge of making sure AI and physicians can work together. "I think the more that we can help the physicians learn what AI does and the more that the physicians can help learn what the AI does, the better it's going to work together," she said.

3. The company is also planning to support health systems through a potential second surge of cases this fall and further into the future. The big questions that Epic is trying to tackle include:

· What can prevent people from getting COVID-19?
· What can save your life if you do get COVID-19?

4. Epic is participating in efforts to develop a smartphone marker that would report in real time whether the user has COVID-19 or not. The phone marker would indicate that the user has been tested and mark them as "safe" or "not safe."

"We're working with a group that's doing that, and we said to them we'd like to do it for all our MyChart patients as well," said Ms. Faulkner. "We're putting that on MyChart so that [users] too will have that and you could go into a restaurant, show your signal to the people in the restaurant, and they'll know you're clear."

5. Epic has decided not to jump into contact tracing yet, at least partially due to the fact that half to two-third of Americans wouldn't participate. "We are watching the contact tracing and what people think of it," she said. "But right now our feeling is that with so many people feeling it isn't the right thing to do, that it becomes too invasive. Right now we are not going forward with that."

More articles on health IT:
Epic in the past 60 days: 9 updates
Will COVID-19 slow down EHR spend, implementation post-pandemic? Cerner doesn't think so
How Northwell, Cleveland Clinic & others are using EHR data during the pandemic


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