New Epic functionality has the potential to enhance capabilities within the EHR platform across numerous healthcare service lines and business operations. But with the near-constant stream of updates and upgrades, healthcare CIOs may be left wondering how their teams can possibly keep up.

“Epic is developing and pushing out new functionality faster than ever,” said Steve Hendrick, Vice President at Healthlink Advisors. “It’s a real challenge to stay up to date, let alone get in front of the latest releases.”
But according to Hendrick, there are a few strategies IT teams can employ to identify, evaluate, and implement new functionality.

Adopt an “Epic-First” Governance Strategy

The first thing organizations can do is adopt an “Epic-first” governance strategy, according to Hendrick.
“Organizations should set up governance that ensures Epic is the first solution evaluated to address any business needs,” said Hendrick. “This ‘Epic-first’ approach can create a better experience for patients, physicians, IT, and administrators while leading to significant cost savings.”

And the savings can be significant – in both cost and satisfaction. When an organization uses Epic functionality to meet business needs it reduces the need to purchase third-party solutions, thus decreasing costs and the added complexity associated with integration.

“Organizations can end up in situations where they purchase a third-party tool and invest significant time and money into its implementation, to ultimately find they cannot completely integrate the solution with the EHR,” said Hendrick. “In addition to affecting the IT budget, this can impact the user experience, workflows and overall system functionality.”

In addition to helping organizations avoid purchasing unnecessary third-party tools, IT teams may even be able to decommission their old third-party solutions in favor of newly available Epic options.

“‘Epic-first’ is really a two-part strategy — organizations are evaluating new requirements against Epic functionality while also looking at old solutions to determine whether Epic can meet those needs,” said Hendrick.

Establish an Internal Epic First Advisor

Having an internal Epic First Advisor (EFA) is an essential step in advancing an IT organization’s ‘Epic-first’ strategy.

“Within an organization’s IT team, there should be a dedicated EFA who is responsible for understanding the EHR environment, staying informed about new releases and functionality, and thinking strategically about how Epic solutions can be used to address organizational challenges, priorities and goals,” said Hendrick. “The internal EFA builds a bridge between the organization’s IT department, operational leadership and Epic.”

Epic assigns each healthcare organization with a Best Friend Forever (BFF). “The Epic BFF functions as an account manager by partnering with the healthcare organization’s IT team to help them think through Epic’s role in advancing the organizational strategy while meeting today’s needs,” said Hendrick.

A successful EFA will work closely with this individual to support the healthcare organization in meeting their long-term goals. According to Hendrick, “By connecting the Epic BFF with an internal EFA, an organization can establish a critical line of communication and tap into a valuable resource.”

Other responsibilities of an internal EFA might include attending conferences to learn about how other organizations have successfully implemented Epic solutions and mining Epic Share for information that could assist in short- and long-term strategic planning.

Create an Epic Roadmap

With the continued expansion of Epic functionality, it can be easy for healthcare organizations to become overwhelmed. However, with the help of an internal EFA and an Epic BFF, organizations can create a roadmap that helps them establish future priorities.

“IT needs to be in constant communication with internal stakeholders so they understand the challenges, needs and goals of the business, to prioritize them according to the organization’s long-term strategic plan,” said Hendrick. “From there, the EFA can work with the Epic BFF to learn about Epic’s plans to enhance functionality and evaluate how future upgrades may fit with the organization’s overall IT strategy.”

Despite the time and resource commitment it takes to internally set up a proper Epic governance and strategy, Hendrick said the investment is worth it.

“With Epic upgrades and enhancements coming faster than ever, establishing an Epic strategy now will enable an organization to be well positioned for new functionality — and that means an organization can better optimize the EHR to their organizational needs, instead of just trying to keep up,” said Hendrick.