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Epic CEO Judy Faulkner horses around at Verona health IT company's annual meeting
EPIC SYSTEMS | 18,100 attend USERS GROUP MEETING

Epic CEO Judy Faulkner horses around at Verona health IT company's annual meeting

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In the future, look for more competition for patients, more patient involvement in their own care, and fewer electronic health records providers, Epic Systems Corp. chief executive Judy Faulkner told the company’s annual users group meeting Tuesday.

Acquisitions of health IT companies will mushroom, she said, and then announced one of her own: Epic is buying GE, she said, and it will become General Epic.

There were some surprised gasps and a bit of applause. Then Faulkner ’fessed up. “Just kidding,” she said with a laugh, adding, “I hope no one tweeted this.”

Faulkner, who has staunchly maintained the independence of the privately owned Verona electronic health records giant, reiterated she has no plans to join with any other company.

In August, one of Epic’s biggest competitors, Cerner Corp., said it will buy Siemens’ health IT unit for $1.3 billion.

The competition still will have some catching up to do, based on statistics Faulkner gave:

Health care groups using Epic electronic health records serve 54 percent of patients in the U.S. and 2.5 percent of patients worldwide.

This year’s users group meeting drew 18,100 people, up from 15,300 last year and nearly double the 2010 attendance of 9,600.

Participants included 10,300 customers from 326 health care organizations across the U.S. and 10 other countries. Last year, the event had 8,500 customers from 309 organizations.

In the month of August alone, Faulkner said, Epic exchanged more than 500,000 health records with other systems and 5 million Epic-to-Epic records.

Interoperability — or the ability of one electronic health records system to communicate with another — has been a big industry issue lately.

In hearings before Congress in July, Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., a physician, singled out Epic for criticism, claiming its system is too closed. Epic hired lobbying firm Card & Associates in August “to educate legislators” on the issue, the company told the trade press.

Faulkner said health IT is letting people take a more active role in their care. She said 1.5 million patients have checked their own records in the past 30 days.

“The greatest users of electronic health records are the patients,” she said.

Nancy Smith, senior director of patient care services at Howard County General Hospital, Columbia, Maryland, said she is eager to learn more about how Epic’s MyChart Bedside lets patients follow their hospital treatment on a tablet device. “I think it’s really cool,” she said.

This is the first Epic users group meeting for LuShawna Lawson, director of pharmacy for Community Health Network, Indianapolis. She said she wants to hear about the best practices of other Epic clients, “things we can adapt or change so we don’t have to re-create the wheel.”

The theme of this year’s gathering is “Down on the Farm,” and Faulkner walked on stage leading a miniature horse — a 7-year-old named Charm — and wearing tight-fitting overalls, a red plaid shirt, leather work boots, and a green-and-white cap. “If I were not leading (this life), I would be a farm girl,” said Faulkner, who asks not to be photographed.

Epic, co-founded by Faulkner in 1979, has around 8,000 employees, up at least 1,000 since February, and had $1.66 billion in revenue in 2013.

The users group meeting, which started on Monday, runs through Thursday, with most events at the Verona campus.

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