Why Epic and Google Cloud repaired their relationship

Almost three years ago, Epic, the nation's largest hospital EHR vendor, reportedly told customers it wouldn't pursue further integrations with Google Cloud.

But last month, the nation's largest hospital EHR vendor and one of the biggest cloud companies showed they'd mended their relationship. They signed an agreement to allow health systems to migrate their Epic EHRs to Google's cloud, with Edison, N.J.-based Hackensack Meridian Health first in line.

It is one of several collaborations Google Cloud has made of late with healthcare companies, and is another example of Epic's recent willingness to work closely with Big Tech firms. It shows the increased readiness of huge, seemingly disparate players to join forces rather than try to conquer one another in the complex, yet lucrative $4 trillion American healthcare system.

In January 2020, Epic began telling customers it was distancing itself from Google Cloud because there wasn't enough interest from health systems to justify the investment, CNBC reported at the time.

"We invest substantial time and engineering effort in evaluating and understanding the infrastructure Epic runs on," Seth Hain, Epic's vice president of research and development, told the news outlet back then. "Scalability, reliability and security are important factors we consider when evaluating these underlying technologies."

Around that time, Google had come under scrutiny for amassing personal data on millions of patients of St. Louis-based Ascension in trying to create a searchable EHR for the hospital giant.

Since then, Google Cloud has picked up or furthered its relationship with some major health system clients, including New Hyde Park, N.Y.-based Northwell Health, Brentwood, Tenn.-based Lifepoint Health, and Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic.

In an August 2022 report on cloud providers, researchers from KLAS Research noted that Google Cloud's platform has matured in the past few years. Google has also seen growth in the cloud market, though it still trails Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. "What makes us unique in the industry is our commitment to growing our healthcare products and expertise," a Google Cloud spokesperson told Becker's in June.

A Google Cloud spokesperson pointed to its expanding work in the industry, noting that it now collaborates with nine of the top 10 healthcare and life sciences companies in the world.

"As the cloud company of choice for so many healthcare organizations, it was important to us to make it possible for them to host their Epic workloads on Google Cloud," the spokesperson emailed Becker's. "Now that we've signed an agreement with Epic, we can begin the work to prepare for customers to run Epic software on Google Cloud. This will give healthcare organizations more choice as they work to deliver better outcomes for their patients."

Asked what changed about the relationship with Google Cloud in the preceding nearly three years, an Epic spokesperson emailed Becker's: "Epic works with many vendors, including cloud vendors. We're always evaluating and reevaluating collaborative opportunities that could give our customers more ways to succeed."

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