An Epic conflict of interest: Part 2

Pejman Yousefzadeh Co-Host, Coffee and Markets
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In a previous piece, I discussed Epic Systems Corporation CEO Judy Faulkner’s efforts to prevent the implementation of semantic interoperability in the healthcare information technology (HIT) industry. This piece discusses how her stance on interoperability favors unions.

Thus far, neither Faulkner nor Epic has had to pay any kind of serious political or commercial price for past blunders in implementing Epic’s HIT system for clients. Perhaps part of the reason has to do with a de facto alliance between Epic and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Consider the following Epic customers and their affiliations with the SEIU:

  • Kaiser Permanente: Affiliated with SEIU-UHW
  • Cleveland Clinic: Affiliated with SEIU
  • Cedars Sinai: Affiliated with SEIU-UHW and CIR-SEIU
  • NYU Langone Medical Center: Affiliated with SEIU
  • Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: Affiliated with SEIU
  • Harvard Community Health Plan: Affiliated with SEIU
  • Sutter Health: Affiliated with SEIU
  • Geisinger Health System: Affiliated with SEIU

SEIU-UHW refers to United Healthcare Workers West and CIR-SEIU refers to the Committee of Interns and Residents. As the list makes clear, Epic’s relationship with various SEIU branches — through the company’s customers — runs broad and deep. The SEIU has worked to make itself part of the national conversation regarding healthcare information technology, and its efforts have been rewarded at events like last May’s Cornell University International Healthcare Conference, which featured a session titled “Why Unions Should be Part of the Delivery System Changes and What Unions Can Expect from These Activities.”

Judy Faulkner’s interoperability philosophy would give unions like SEIU a targeted series of programs around which to rally organizing efforts in the healthcare industry. This would help unions win the right to represent healthcare personnel and further their reach into the healthcare information technology industry. By consolidating healthcare information technology specialization areas and tying the unions’ value and the value of the workers they represent to the healthcare information technology industry, they could more easily secure higher member retention rates.

So we are left to wonder whether patient care and best practices are being sacrificed on the altar of favoritism, cronyism and special deals. If it matters to you what kind of care patients are receiving and how HIT systems contribute to the quality of patient care, then Faulkner’s willingness to prioritize political back-scratching above quality HIT practices ought to raise alarms.

Pejman Yousefzadeh is an attorney in the Chicago area. He is a contributor to The New Ledger, co-host of the Coffee and Markets podcast, and editor of A Chequer-Board of Nights and Days.