Epic Sys­tems hires lob­by­ist to re­pair in­ter­op­er­abil­ity im­age

Modern Healthcare - - NEWS - By Dar­ius Tahir

Elec­tronic health-record gi­ant Epic Sys­tems Corp. has hired Wash­ing­ton lob­by­ing firm Card & As­so­ciates to counter a neg­a­tive per­cep­tion in Congress that its EHR sys­tems are not in­ter­op­er­a­ble with other ven­dors’ tech­nol­ogy.

The move comes as Epic has teamed with IBM to com­pete for a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar con­tract to mod­ern­ize the U.S. De­fense Depart­ment’s clin­i­cal tech­nol­ogy sys­tems.

The Verona, Wis.-based company re­tained the lob­by­ing firm in Au­gust. It did not pre­vi­ously have rep­re­sen­ta­tion on Capi­tol Hill, ac­cord­ing to the fed­eral Lob­by­ing Dis­clo­sure Act data­base. Epic said in the reg­is­tra­tion that it was mak­ing the move to “ed­u­cate mem­bers of Congress on the in­ter­op­er­abil­ity of Epic’s health­care in­for- ma­tion tech­nol­ogy.”

An Epic spokesman said “we have en­gaged gov­ern­ment re­la­tions support to help ed­u­cate legislators on what is hap­pen­ing with health­care IT and, in par­tic­u­lar, on ad­vanc­ing EHRs and in­ter­op­er­abil­ity.”

Brad­ford Card, CEO of Card & As­so­ciates and brother of An­drew Card, Pres­i­dent George W. Bush’s for­mer chief of staff, said Epic has been the “sub­ject of mis­in­for­ma­tion.” His firm will work to set the record straight. “There have been sto­ries that they’re not in­ter­op­er­a­ble, when in fact they are,” Card said.

Hir­ing lob­by­ists is out of character for Epic, which has a rep­u­ta­tion for stay­ing out of the Wash­ing­ton politi- cal fray.

In a July con­gres­sional hear­ing, Rep. Phil Gin­grey (R-Ga.), a physi­cian, had sharp words for the company, cit­ing a RAND Corp. re­port as­sert­ing that Epic’s sys­tems were “closed records.”

Gin­grey ar­gued that the fed­eral pro­gram pro­vid­ing in­cen­tive pay­ments for health­care providers to in­stall EHRs was in­tended to pro­mote in­ter­op­er­abil­ity. “Is the gov­ern­ment get­ting its money’s worth?” he asked. “It may be time for the (En­ergy and Com­merce) com­mit­tee to take a closer look at the prac­tices of ven­dor com­pa­nies in this space, given the pos­si­bil­ity that fraud may be per­pe­trated on the Amer­i­can tax­payer.”

The move to hire lob­by­ists is out of character for Epic, which has a rep­u­ta­tion for stay­ing out of the Wash­ing­ton po­lit­i­cal fray.

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