unUGM: Learning How to Connect with Epic from Anywhere

Helping non-Epic providers who need to see Epic charts


Epic’s recent unUsers Group Meeting was a day-long conference in Verona for providers who don’t use an Epic EHR. It was an unprecedented collaboration and opportunity for organizations to learn more about sharing data with Epic customers in their communities and across the country.

Folks focused on a clear goal: “How can everyone who needs a patient’s chart get appropriate access, regardless of the technology they have?” The conference’s intent was practical—to make immediate progress in helping attendees access Epic charts.

The room was full, with a diverse group of attendees. Some were still on paper, while others were struggling with a non-interoperable EHR. Some had fully interoperable systems, but wanted to learn more about the opportunities to connect. Attendees, who ranged from social care providers and FQHCs to regional delivery networks, spent the day in sessions and Q&A time on the specifics of “how-to” connect with Epic-using providers.

Those on paper heard about ways patients can direct their information to them via the internet. Attendees who share patients with Epic providers in their community learned about opportunities for web access to charts via a physician portal. Finally, those with interoperable EHRs learned more about the benefits of connecting via Carequality, and the increased data sharing that comes with it.

Outside of the sessions, guests had one-on-one time with Epic developers to talk through their specific situations and needs. Many attendees got the names and contact information of Epic providers in their communities so they could follow up on the suggested ways to connect.

The day also confirmed that interoperability can mean many things, depending on your perspective. “Listening to folks’ questions, there’s so much variation from one organization to the next,” said Epic Software Engineer Matt Doyle. “Some are on paper just looking for a problem list, and some need a computable chart for feeding their ACO’s data warehouse.” The intent of unUGM was to make sure everyone got an overview of what’s possible with interoperability and an action plan for next steps.

One well-received part of the day was a panel comprised of provider-organization executives who have already had years of success with chart sharing, both using Epic and EHRs from other vendors. Steven Lane, CMIO at Sutter, told the room, “Carequality is the framework that is now able to allow all of those networks to connect to one another. It’s done,” encouraging anyone with a modern EHR to sign up right away with the vendor-neutral initiative.

Katherine Lusk, from Children’s Health System of Dallas, drove home the message that sharing charts is no longer a cutting-edge practice reserved for risk takers, but instead a widespread activity. “We exchange half with Epic people and half with non-Epic,” she explained.

By all indications, progress was made. After the panel, one guest said, “Before coming to the conference, I felt that we were far from interoperability and didn’t know if that was the landscape or if we were just poorly connected. It has been very informative.” Most ended the day with a new list of to-dos ahead of them. Common themes in the meeting evaluation survey were that the day was “eye-opening,” “extremely helpful,” and “very informative,” and 100% of respondents indicated they’d recommend unUGM to their colleagues.