EPIC comes to Australia, an indication of a new era or Déjà vu?


Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne announced their decision to implement Epic a couple of weeks ago, and congratulations to all involved. Now there are end-to-end EMR systems here already, but Epic took the USA market by storm a few years ago, and I believe became a catalyst in changing the offerings in this space.

(Be warned bragging ahead.) EMC in the USA has been very successful in helping Epic’s customers, providing infrastructure and ‘allied’ applications, such as extracting data from and retiring legacy systems and providing solutions for the residual ‘paper’ workflows. I am told that somewhere in the vicinity of 70% of the major Epic installs are run on EMC infrastructure. (End of bragging-sorry).

So to find out what to expect I contacted my colleagues, and as I learnt more I had to keep pinching myself, as I felt like I’d been here before. Then it dawned on me I had!  Except the application wasn’t EMR, it was ERP; and the vendor wasn’t EPIC it was SAP! (Enterprise Resource Planning was the move from siloed applications in the enterprise into an integrated end-to-end system, and SAP became the catalyst and leading vendor in this space.)

I was on a team implementing SAP for an IT service provider organisation, at the time I managed the delivery of services and was this line of business lead on the project. Although this was many years ago I distinctly remember the fist team meeting with the implementation consultants, (a major consultancy). The team lead opened with, “The best thing about SAP is it is an integrated end-to-end system, and you will learn that the worst thing is that it is an integrated end-to-end system!”, and he was right. Huge rewards but a long journey to get there!

Having the technology bent that I have, I got involved in the infrastructure selection. Various vendors pitched their products to us and provided the appropriate configurations and pricing. (As you would imagine, our goal was to transform the way we did business and we were squarely focused on how the organisation, processes, workflows, skills, etc. were going to change and how to effect this change, so the hardware decision was fairly close to the bottom of the priority list. But it is necessary and on the critical path of the project.

Then one of the vendors message to us was along the lines of , “Select us, because we will be transparent, you won’t think about the infrastructure again!” They got the deal, and it worked. They had a depth of expertise, an architecture and design that just delivered the right stuff out of the box, saving us time on the start-up of the project, and just seemed to solve all the issues we had. For example we kept needed new environments for testing or users to get training etc. The SAP experts give us a few days, and the infrastructure guys said, we’ll have that for you in an hour, is that fast enough!!

The ironic and perhaps funny part of my feelings of Déjà vu, are the many parallels between SAP and EPIC.

–          It seems like the vendor decides who their customers are going to be.

–          The organisation must adopt the systems ‘best practices’.

–          The approach ‘divides’ the market into believers and non-believers.

On this last point while in Melbourne when rumors started about this decision a CIO of a similar size healthcare provider was questioning the decision and wondering how the business case stood up, which is the exact same conversation that was had a thousand times about SAP!

In the end if a new product or approach creates innovation that brings benefits that lead to better patient outcomes, it has to be goodness!



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