The first lady of health IT channeled the first lady of comedy — at least in attire — as Epic Systems Corp. CEO Judy Faulkner welcomed 18,000 health care executives and Epic employees to the Verona company’s annual users’ group meeting Tuesday.

With representatives from 11 countries in the audience, Faulkner, who was costumed as Lucille Ball, called for collaboration, not competition, “to improve life for humankind.”

The co-founder of one of the nation’s biggest health IT providers, Faulkner quoted the late comedienne and TV pioneer, saying, “I’m not funny; what I am is brave.”

She released some statistics from the past year — as documented by Epic software — about the company’s customers, who care for more than 50 percent of the U.S. patient population:

  • 219,000 harmful or fatal medication incidents were prevented.
  • 860,000 babies were delivered.
  • 18 million records were exchanged among organizations just in the month of July 2015.

Faulkner said Epic is forming a Cosmos Research Network and urged clients to pool their patient data, with identities removed, so they can make better care decisions based on their combined experience.

“Each of you alone has big data. But if we put our data together, then it’s huge data,” Faulkner said.

She welcomed Epic’s new customers — including Mayo Clinic of Rochester, Minnesota — and made no mention of the highly publicized U.S. Defense Department decision in July to turn down a bid by Epic and IBM for a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar contract to revamp military health records.

But she also didn’t say Epic and a Lockheed Martin subsidiary, Systems Made Simple, won a smaller, five-year, $624 million contract in August for a new patient scheduling system for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Epic employees are developing electronic health record modules for specialized types of care, as well as updates to MyChart programs used by patients and to the Rover mobile app used by nurses and other health care staff, Faulkner and Epic president Carl Dvorak told the gathering.

Faulkner said Epic is talking to Congress about issues including telehealth and cybersecurity.

“If you are cyberattacked, you should be seen as a victim not a villain, and they should be limiting your liability,” she said.

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Faulkner said her goal is to “work together to improve life on our planet through collaboration and innovation.”

Have fun while you’re here and make a plan, she told attendees, “and when you go home, take action.”

As she usually does, Faulkner, 71, dressed to fit the theme of the gathering: A Classic Episode, referring to classic TV shows of the 1950s through 1970s.

Dressed as Ball, Faulkner — who won’t let the news media take her picture at the event — wore a super-size, curly, red wig, black-and-white polka dot dress, white apron with red piping, red pumps and a faux pearl necklace and earrings. Clips of “I Love Lucy” episodes were interspersed among her comments.

Theme songs from shows such as the “Love Boat,” “The Monkees” and “Mr. Ed” greeted guests in the hallways, and morning presentations on Epic’s software advances were performed as takeoffs on “Get Smart” and “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”

It is the first users’ group meeting for Connie Haynes, a manager at Carolinas Health Care System in Charlotte, North Carolina, whose system is scheduled to go live in November. It’s taken a year and a half to install, she said.

“I’m looking forward to experiencing the whole Epic journey,” said Haynes.

Jennifer Beaugh, a pharmacist at Lifespan in Providence, Rhode Island, also is a first-timer. Lifespan’s Epic system launched in March, combining separate software systems into one, so a patient’s medications are part of the general health record, she said.

“Of course, there are going to be glitches but overall, it went very well and far exceeded our expectations,” she said.

UC Davis Health System in Sacramento, California, has used Epic’s software for several years, and analyst Andrew Milner said improvements to patients’ MyChart system will make it “more user friendly,” especially the ability to send photos.

“I think that’s going to be huge — very, very helpful,” he said.

The users’ group meeting runs through Thursday with most events scheduled at Epic’s sprawling Verona campus, where construction of the fourth set of office buildings, the Wizards Academy campus, should conclude by late 2015.

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