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Epic responds to critics of electronic record installation

Madison, Wis. - Following weeks of blistering criticism of its electronic medical record system and its ongoing installation at Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Madison's Epic Systems Corp. has joined the subsidiary of Kaiser Permanente in defending its product.

Epic Systems, a medical software developer, says it is very proud of the Kaiser installation and its electronic records system, which Kaiser has re-branded with the name KP HealthConnect.

The controversy began several weeks ago when Justen Deal, a Los Angeles-based Kaiser Permanente employee, drew attention to implementation problems. His concerns have received widespread media coverage.

Katie O'Brien, an Epic spokeswoman, said the prospect of further media coverage prompted the company to break its silence.

“Epic is proud of its work on Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect,” O'Brien said. “There was a great deal of misinformation about Epic's role in the project, and we wanted to make sure the facts were corrected in the event additional stories developed in the future.”
What's the Deal?

According to Epic, the software is designed to help Kaiser standardize the practice of medicine across its eight regions, create better access to patient data, improve safety and efficacy of care, and become the largest single research source in the nation. Even though both companies maintain the original system is live and aggressively being rolled-out, Deal has issued a devastating critique.

Deal, a project supervisor who has been relentless in his criticism, recently sent an e-mail to Kaiser employees, questioning the wisdom of continuing with what he believes is a failed implementation. He cited reliability and scalability problems with HealthConnect, and claimed that internal projections show the company could lose $7 billion over the next two years.

Deal has been placed on leave, but has maintained a website ( outlining steps he has taken to alert company officials. One of his allegations is that the decision to purchase Epic software was made due to conflicts of interest on the part of former CIO Clifford Dodd, who recently resigned, and current CEO George Halvorson, who was with the Minnesota-based HealthPartners when it selected Epic's medical records software.

Kaiser response

Matthew Schiffgens, a Kaiser spokesman, said Dodd's departure is not connected with KP HealthConnect, noting that Bruce Turksta, vice president and program director of HealthConnect, has been named interim CIO.

Schiffgens said a company review of Deal's claims found them to be unsubstantiated, and that Kaiser is proceeding with full implementation of HealthConnect, which comes with a project budget of $3 billion. “We expect to have it implemented within the scope of the full project timetable,” he said, adding that those timelines call for full implementation in outpatient settings in 2008 and in its 24 hospitals by 2009.

Kaiser has made available a 722-page internal report, outlining issues with its network performance, including router failures and interface slowdowns, which have caused outages and downtime.

Kaiser also took the step of sending a letter to its fellow Epic clients. In the letter, signed by Louise Liang, senior vice president of quality and clinical systems support for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, and Andy Wiesenthal, associate medical director of the Permanente Federation, the company said it may be difficult to “separate one person's viewpoint from fact.”

The letter concluded as follows: “We have always been honest and forthcoming regarding our success, as well as the challenges we have faced and overcome. We would like to reassure you that these challenges are not atypical for an IT implementation of our size and scope, and we remain confident in the reliability and scalability of the Epic product to help us care for our 8.6 million members.”

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Jill Oberheim responded 8 years ago: #1

In my position in the Expedited Review Division for KaiserCalifornia, I use HealthConnect daily. It is, beyond a doubt the best medical record product I have ever used and it, without a doubt, has enabled me to meet with our physicians to review health infomation and make rapid determinations for the well being of our Kaiser members.

gadfly responded 8 years ago: #2

Kaiser and Epic sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G...

Matthew North responded 8 years ago: #3

It is good to see that the world is paying attention to the problems we've been having. There's a lot of misinformation inside and outside of KP, but in the end I think our management is finally seeing that HealthConnect needs intensive care if it's going to be everything they want it to be.

KAISER PHYSICIAN responded 8 years ago: #4

There are many questions beyond whether the system works or not. The biggest question is that was Epic pre selected by Halvorson, and Dodd over the developing Kaiser EMR system in 2002, and is the system worth billions of dollars. If the Tanning corporation review was the major decision behind Kaiser’s abandoning its preexisting efforts for an EMR over Epic then the decision is obviously bias.

Carrie Lester responded 8 years ago: #5

Kaiser and Epic are going to great pains to do damage control and spread the positive PR, but plenty of Kaiser people don't agree with Jill, even according to an Epic employee himself. After returning from a business trip to Kaiser, he posted the following on his personal blog:

"It was interesting to see how a company can love the software and Epic as a company, whereas the users at that same company hate it and quit over it."

I would provide a direct link, but as soon as the post was pointed out on another blog, he modified the above comment to read:

"It was interesting to see how a company can love the software and Epic as a company, whereas the users at that same company hate it and quit over being "forced" to use it. I guess to the caregiver it's harder to see that it's a move done for the patient and for improving patient care when all you know is know you have to 'use the computer to do that."

Gee, do you think the PR departments of Kaiser and Epic had anything to do with that little rewrite of history? It's all about the patients and those silly caregivers just don't get it. Shhh...don't tell anyone that we can't even figure out which bed the patients are in during the "code white" incidents, according to Kaiser's own outage reports.

The Google cache of the original blog post is still available at the following address, which I'm shortening through TinyUrl (not knowing how the comments here will handle the direct link to the long link to the Google cache). Click here and see for yourselves:

Once Kaiser and Epic see this I'm sure Kaiser will use its direct line to Google to disappear it immediately, but a kind soul archived screenshots of the Epic employee's blog before and after, here:

This article looks a lot like Kaiser/Epic PR disguised as news, and I find it extremely interesting that Justen Deal was not asked to participate. Another one of those moments that make you go hmm...

My 2 Sense responded 8 years ago: #6

From Justen Deal's blog: on Dec 20, 2004: "By 2013, Kaiser Permanente plans to have spent more than $4 billion on a technology platform, which Sun Microsystems gives away for free. HealthConnect is essentially a shrink-wrapped cousin to Sun’s OpenRx Framework platform. The differences here? Rather than a small team of private developers, OpenRx has an open source community development team of thousands, in addition to Sun’s staff of 32,000."

I Googled "OpenRx Framework:" and got 63 hits; most were Sub press releases. Justen's email is full of conspiratorial accusations but very few facts. Comparing some Sun "open source" marketing hype to a product like Epic's leaves him with very little credibility. He appears to be doing some serious ax grinding.

Student: Master of Health Science responded 8 years ago: #7

I've been studying about MCOs and Kaiser has caught my attention - big time. The letters KP are sending out to other EPIC customers no doubt include UPMC Health System, headquartered in Pittsburgh. UPMC seems to be modeling KP in several ways, including anti-trust allegations. UPMC is in the process of implementing an IT health records system
from dbMotion. This dbMotion professes to have one other "unnamed customer" who is a major MCO. I wonder who???
Why would dbMotion not want to disclose the other customer?

Been There responded 8 years ago: #8

For the past 5 years I've been deeply involved in the deployment of Epic's software. Our experiences model that of KP, albeit on a much smaller scale. We had users that absolutely hated the software, hated the project, and were disgusted at the amount of money being spent. And, yes, physicians did quit because of it. They were not going to be forced to practice medicine that way. No one wants to be told how to do their job that they've been doing successfully for years.

Now, just a few years later, no one can imagine their day without our EMR system. I've been told stories of how it's literally changed the lives of our physicians. Physicians that no longer spend their evenings in their office doing dictation and paperwork! Our ability to deliver 24/7 is still not perfect, but the rave reviews can still be heard daily.

If feel KP's pain. Been there!

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