Everything That Washed Ashore at Epic UGM

Epic went with a Castaway theme for this year’s User Group Meeting, and it’s easy to see why considering Tom Hanks would need years on a deserted island to sort through all the new features and partnerships announced at the show.

Luckily for Hanks, we already rounded up all the biggest news from the event, starting with the headline grabber: 

Microsoft and Epic are going all-in on AI. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella even attended in-person to lay out how the partnership will reshape clinical workflows with generative AI.

  • Ambient clinical note generation powered by Nuance DAX Express 
  • Added in-basket messaging features that auto-generate first-draft responses
  • Rev cycle enhancements that provide coding staff with suggestions based on EHR data
  • New Look-Alikes program that matches patients with unidentified conditions to others with similar symptoms to help inform novel treatments

Epic CEO Judy Faulkner also took the stage in a sweet island explorer / Burning Man costume to share Epic’s overhauled partnership program, which now includes four distinct categories.

  • Cornerstone Partners – tech that serves as the backbone of Epic’s own software (InterSystems, Microsoft)
  • Partners – market leaders in specific areas (Nuance for ambient voice, PressGaney for consumer surveys)
  • Member Services – established integrations providing complementary value 
  • Pals – new category that allows innovative vendors to work closely with its EHR, including Abridge for ambient voice and the just-announced addition of Talkdesk for contact center workforce management

A new app “Showroom” will be the home base for the above partners, replacing the App Orchard that Epic shut down last year. 

  • When Showroom officially launches in a few weeks, it’ll be exclusive to a much more curated cohort of Partners and Pals than the Orchard’s 800+ third-party vendors, a decision that Epic said will help users find the “signal in the noise” and facilitate deeper collaborations. 

The Takeaway

Under the bright lights of an island-themed stage, Epic’s new features look nothing short of transformative, and its newfound willingness to play nice with partners could make a huge impact on nearly all aspects of care delivery. The real question will be whether these enhancements can be deployed as envisioned so that they can live up to their potential. It’s a massive undertaking, but there are countless clinicians that would love if Epic could pull it off.  

Telehealth Rarely Requires In-Person Follow-Ups

Epic Research tied a nice ribbon on the end of 2022 with a study suggesting that telehealth is an efficient use of resources for most specialties, rarely requiring an in-person follow-up within 90 days.

The research appears to indicate that telehealth isn’t usually duplicative of in-person visits, adding weight to the argument that regulators should view it as an alternative, rather than an additional encounter.

After examining over 35M telehealth visits conducted between March 2020 and May 2022, Epic Research found a pretty wide spread between specialties for both the number of telehealth visits and in-person follow-up percentages.

The main finding was that high follow-up rates were present only in specialties that require regular in-person visits for hands-on care, such as obstetrics and surgery. 

  • Mental health and psychiatry had the highest telehealth utilization and some of the lowest need for in-person follow-up. No surprises there.
  • Only 15% of telemental health visits needed an in-person follow-up within the next three months.
  • On the opposite end of the spectrum, obstetrics (92%), fertility (54%), and geriatrics (50%) had the highest need for in-person follow-ups.
  • In specialties that could be consultations (e.g. genetics, nutrition), the researchers stated that telehealth might even replace the need for in-person visits.

The Takeaway

While the numbers certainly look good for telehealth at first glance, the pandemic itself might be doing them a lot of favors.

Many medical offices closed at the beginning of the study period, and most didn’t reopen to in-person appointments for several months. Plenty of patients also remain wary of in-person visits due to the risk of virus exposure. Both factors probably skewed the in-person follow-ups to a lower range.

Those details aside, Epic Research gave a great overview of in-person follow-up needs by specialty, and the more data we can wrap around telehealth’s impact the better.

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-- The Digital Health Wire team

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