Where will healthcare be in 2 years…20 years? Epic’s Judy Faulkner shares insights. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic waning, Epic and CEO Judy Faulkner expect increasing reliance on tech solutions to improve care and deal with pressures.

There’s a lull in the interview, and Judy Faulkner stands up to grab a red sheet of paper near her desk. She wants to illustrate a point. 

“We have something called a red flag, and it’s bright red,” she says, holding the paper so it can be seen. “It lists the problem that a customer may have.” The sheet contains information detailing the extent of an issue, the specific criticality of the risk, and who within Epic is responsible for addressing it and the projected timeframe for resolution. 

“That’s what I like about it,” Faulkner says. “The important part is that it doesn’t just say there’s a problem.” 

That’s the programmer DNA in Epic’s CEO – illustrating the attention to detail in the fact that a specific customer problem alert is within arm’s length of a CEO of a company with 11,500 employees. 

“We’re trying to hire as many people as we can – more than what we need today even – so that we will have the excess capacity to be able to help our customers.” 

It’s extremely rare for a CEO to start a company more than 40 years ago and continue to lead it through various stages of growth. More than just expansion, Epic has been recognized for its excellent performance in the 2022 Best in KLAS Software and Services Report., reflecting healthcare organization executives’ perceptions of IT solution quality. 

For 12 consecutive years, Epic has received the Best in KLAS for the top overall software suite, and it also was named the top overall physician practice vendor, and in addition to that, the Verona, Wis.-based company won nine other Best in KLAS awards in various market segments. 

Return to normal 

Now emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic with the rest of the country, Epic staff is returning to its campus, and Faulkner continues to build out the vision for other avenues the solutions provider can pursue to support the nation’s healthcare organizations. Those plans include constructing five more buildings on its campus and hiring more employees in advance of the expected need. 

“What I find is that health systems would like more of our staff to come in and augment their staff, so we are trying. That’s part of the reason we’re building,” Faulkner explains. “We’re trying to hire as many people as we can – more than what we need today even – so that we will have the excess capacity to be able to do that.” 

That vision for support comes as provider organizations struggle to deal with staff shortages that are most noticeable in clinical care, but which also have broadly affected their workforces. 

Epic, along with many other healthcare solution providers, stepped up to support the industry during the past two years, as providers’ resources and staff were decimated by the pandemic, notes Adam Gale, CEO of KLAS Research. But he recalled a specific discussion with Faulkner early in the crisis, “where she talked about how many things they were implementing – they were just the right things to do. They weren't charging customers – they just needed to (make them available) to help solve COVID issues. I actually hear fewer complaints (about Epic) than normal because (providers) just say, ‘Look, there was not much more than Epic could have done to help us.’ “ 

Epic managed the pandemic by assigning staff to every customer worldwide. “It was interesting – I really don’t even know what the staff did,” Faulkner says. “It was on their own to figure out everything they could do to be helpful. That was kind of fun to see the creativity and how they could be helpful.” 

She expects the return of the workforce to campus will extend her vision for what Epic needs to excel. While there is time to collaborate as colleagues, the Epic campus also offers individual offices to its force, giving them an environment to think and be creative. 

Hallmarks of creativity 

It’s an extension of Faulkner’s own background as a software developer, and her exposure to healthcare organizations that are providing care. Now, Epic is looking ahead to how the healthcare industry will evolve over the next few years. That still lines up with Faulkner’s vision, which she refines and sharpens as she continues discussions with executives of its customers. 

“We’re really shooting to be creative, come with lots of new things that might help – that might be new to the industry,” she says. 

For example, Epic is developing a platform that will better enable cooperation and data exchange between providers and payers – a trend that a variety of industry organizations have anticipated as a result of the expected transition to value-based care approaches. “We’re seeing that it can actually work well, and those organizations which weren’t traditionally best of friends now are doing much better together,” she observes. 

The industry needs to take advantage of the patient data it’s collecting. Epic itself is getting on board, enabling its data to be used for research, with initiatives being published on its Epic Research website, which operates as a non-profit resource. 

Other data challenges lie ahead for the industry and the records systems that will support patient care in the future, Faulkner predicts. “I think genomics will be coming more and more into the EHR data, and genomics together (with other clinical data) can do some wonderful (things in the) future there. I think the ability for us to put the data together and get a lot more evidence-based decisions is wonderful.” 

Incorporating and acting on social determinants of health (SDoH) also bode well for improving care and the overall health and well-being of individuals, putting patients at the center of their own care. 

Challenges for healthcare 

Other healthcare trends still need to be sorted out, including the wider expected use of third-party apps and requirements that information be allowed to flow freely through them. Faulkner worries about the lack of oversight, and privacy and security concerns as apps are widely created and yet poorly regulated. She cited a recent Steve Forbes article that cited the lack of HIPAA protection for data that patients share with apps. Recent legislative efforts are rising to counterbalance these risks. 

“They're having to pay so much more to bring a new set in or, a lot of times (bringing in replacements) with no healthcare experience.” 

Staffing, particularly on the clinical side, was a challenge before the pandemic, and that’s become only more problematic as organizations experience burnout and attrition, says Gale of KLAS. “I hear that everywhere I go, (organization) are losing up to 40 percent of their staff – that's huge. And they're having to pay so much more to bring a new set in or, a lot of times, (bringing in replacements) with no healthcare experience.” 

The challenge for health IT solutions providers is to provide tools to improve efficiency and streamline workflows, and additionally, how technology can be personalized to better match the way in which a user wants to work with it, or how information or recommendations are presented back. 

But some of that burden lies with provider organizations, both Gale and Faulkner agree. Applications have untapped potential that’s not being used because providers have chosen to turn off functionality or failed to train potential users in how to best use it, Faulkner contends. And it lies on provider organizations to re-examine work processes and workflows to optimize existing systems, Gale chimes in. 

Knowing its place with customers 

Epic strives to communicate with health systems and respond quickly to problems and needs, but it has a clear picture of that relationship. Specifically, she doesn’t see these relationships through a partnerships lens. 

"I care a lot for them personally. I speak to many of them regularly. So that's not the same as a partnership with one of the other vendors. It just feels entirely different."

“We use the term for certain partnerships that are wonderful partnerships with vendors, but we don't use it with our health system customers,” she stresses. “We use the term ‘community members’ for our health system customers. Not that the word ‘partner’ isn't a good word, but that's so overused that it doesn't feel right to use it for our health system members.” 

Having a vendor-customer relationship clarifies the responsiveness needed to meet concerns, and Epic’s efforts to create a community are intended to have healthcare providers share their creative solutions with each other. That’s a hallmark of Epic’s annual User Group Meeting and other experience-sharing opportunities that the company provides. 

“When I talk to our customers, I really like them,” Faulkner enthuses. “I like every one of them. Each one is unique. And each one I think cares a lot. We care a lot for them – I care a lot for them personally. I speak to many of them regularly. So that's not the same as a partnership with one of the other vendors. It just feels entirely different. 

“And what we're trying to do is really have our health systems collaborate. And I like to say, imitate to innovate,” she adds, noting that Epic creates booklets highlighting customers’ efforts. “The idea of that is that the users can publish what they've done that's creative and clever, and others can copy them.” 

Faulkner is convinced that the healthcare industry, which showed its ability to innovate quickly during the pandemic, can make adaptive changes to improve care delivery in the years ahead. 

“It's going to be interesting to come back and talk two years from now and see what has happened and how did it evolve? That would be fun,” she says. “And let's not just come back every two years – let's come back every 20 years so we can see how this healthcare change happens and how does technology change as you make this bigger jump.”  Watch the full video

Best in KLAS leaders share success principles BEYOND THE RANKINGS

EPIC Systems:

Where will healthcare be in 2 years…20 years? Epic’s Judy Faulkner shares insights. 

The Chartis Group:

Purpose, impact, respect, caring – those who work for it have value to contribute back to the world


Provider/vendor partnership – not 50-50 split but each 100% committed.

Galen Healthcare Solutions:

Culture is king when counteracting healthcare’s workforce challenges  

Best in KLAS Report

2022 Best in KLAS Awards - Software and Professional Services

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