Epic Community Connect Program: A Look Into the Benefits and Best Practices

Epic community Connect Program

Interoperability—the ability of different healthcare technologies to exchange and use information effectively—is at the heart of Epic Community Connect. This system allows healthcare providers to:

  • Access patient data efficiently
  • Streamline operational functions
  • Ensure continuity and improve health outcomes
  • Effectively manage costs

What is Epic Community Connect?

Epic Community Connect is a collaborative system by Epic that allows healthcare organizations and independent providers without an interoperable EHR to access relevant patient records across systems when they partner with a healthcare organization that uses Epic’s EHR system.

Through this shared ecosystem—which involves a host organization that has Epic EHR in their technology and a partner (or recipient) organization that does notboth healthcare systems will have ready access to patient charts and can place orders and referrals, receive notifications about their patients, and so forth. Both systems benefit from a cost-sharing arrangement.

When a healthcare facility wants to connect to the Epic EHR network, its organization can choose between two main routes.

  1. They can directly obtain this application from Epic and integrate the software into their technology. This is the choice that’s been made by any healthcare system with the potential of serving as a host with an Epic Systems Community Connect partnership.
  2. Or, a healthcare system can use Community Connect in which they contract with another healthcare organization to obtain access to the approximately 250 million healthcare records contained within the Epic system.

Collaboration in the Healthcare Industry

Before getting into the details of the benefits of the Epic Community Connect Program, research has been conducted on the benefits of collaboration, overall, in the healthcare field. This includes a study titled “Interprofessional Collaboration in Health Care” that was published in National Center for Biotechnology Information and can be read in the National Library of Medicine.

Improved patient outcomes take place in collaborative environments, for example, through “reducing preventable adverse drug reactions, decreasing morbidity and mortality rates, and optimizing medication dosages.” Meanwhile, this collaborative teamwork benefits the providers themselves by reducing levels of extra work while boosting their sense of job satisfaction.

The Forbes Technology Council, upon reviewing collaborative technologies in healthcare, concluded that “Health systems that prioritize data integration, patient engagement and caregiver collaboration have the potential to deliver the best care, increase caregiver job satisfaction, enhance the patient experience and rein in operating expenses.”

As just one more viewpoint before we move onto the Epic Community Connect program itself, the Harvard Business Review cites healthcare collaboration as one of the positives that rose up during the pandemic, concluding that collaboration can also be a “mechanism for improving quality and reducing costs in normal times.”

In short, there’s value in strategic collaboration among healthcare organizations, and here’s how Epic Community Connect can help to lead the charge.

Benefits of the Epic Community Connect Program

The key benefit, as already mentioned, is enhanced interoperability. When a partner connects with a host, they don’t just have access to the records generated by the host hospital. Instead, they can glean information from the tens of thousands of other healthcare facilities in the Epic EHR ecosystem—just like the host hospital themselves can do.

The partner healthcare organization is obtaining streamlined access to a robust EHR system—Epic—in a sharing arrangement that is more cost-effective than a full Epic implementation of their own. Additionally, this takes place within Epic’s HIPAA-compliant system, ensuring information protection in accordance with regulations.

This program opens up the possibilities for referrals and other mutually beneficial business opportunities. It also helps to reduce the number of duplicate tests being ordered because more medical professionals can have transparent, real-time access to test results, diagnoses, and much more.

The host hospital also benefits from whatever cost-sharing arrangement they agree to with their partner, reducing their total cost of ownership. In reality, all of the healthcare organizations that use Epic will also benefit. How? Because yet another healthcare organization—the partner—will be contributing information that will advance the comprehensive nature of Epic EHRs and reduce the number of duplicate records in the overall healthcare system.

Best Practices for Epic Community Connect Program

Clear Communication

Epic Community Connect is a deeply collaborative effort so, before two organizations agree to this arrangement, it’s crucial to first establish that mutual interest and benefits exist. Each party should be clear about how they hope to benefit from this partnership, what they will contribute to it, and what their anticipated responsibilities will be.

As a closely related best practice, each party must clearly communicate their needs, ask relevant questions, and engage in conversation about the proposed partnership throughout their engagement. This includes, but isn’t limited to, conversations about the cost for the healthcare organization that will use the Epic Systems Community Connect to access data from the host healthcare organization.

The host should clearly communicate how the program will work from their perspective and the amount and types of support that will be provided to a partner. The partner will need to thoroughly investigate the hardware and software requirements of the Epic Community Connect program and ensure that their healthcare organization can already meet them or will upgrade to do so. Throughout the collaboration, the host must agree to continue to proactively keep the partner informed when further upgrades in hardware and/or software will be needed; the partner, meanwhile, must agree that, upon reasonable notice, they will perform the upgrades.

Effective communication and collaboration may be most important when the Epic Systems Community Connect partnership is actually being implemented. (That said, the need for effective communication never goes away when two parties engage in the Epic Community Connect program.) Just like when a new EHR system is being implemented in a healthcare organization, experts must first evaluate the current system and the proposed new partnership, analyzing differences between the two and determining what’s needed to get the new arrangement successfully implemented in optimal ways.

Implementation Plan

As a host, it’s important to analyze your current system to see what’s needed to actually serve in that role. A timeline and list of tasks must be created for the implementation plan and so forth. The partner, meanwhile, must be prepared to supply the host with any necessary information and documentation, which may take a targeted team to focus on and provide. This includes but isn’t limited to workflows, which may be different from that of the host hospital.

Full clarity must exist around who will take on what roles as you enter into the partnership; implement and integrate the Epic Community Connect program; and beyond as the system is being used. Who, as just one example, can make changes to the system? If the host and partner facility are in different states, who will be in charge of making sure the regulations in both states continue to be met? Who will add or delete end users?

Training and Support

As the time nears when the partner hospital will have access to the host’s Epic system, it’s important that the end users in the partner organization have received thorough training in the system. Who will provide that? It will need to contain elements of how the host has optimized the EHR system along with ones that show how the system will work with the partner hospital’s workflows. What training materials will be provided? How will new employees be onboarded to this shared system? What training will be offered when Epic is upgraded? The post-live support system must be clearly delineated, too. What service level agreements (SLAs) will be designed and used for desk support?

HealthTECH Resources: Your Epic Community Connect Partner

Your in-house healthcare IT team is charged with plenty of responsibilities that are both important and time-consuming. If you decide to implement the Epic Community Connect program for your healthcare organization, you may need to supplement your team with experienced Epic consultants. Even if some of your staff has experience with EHR implementations, Community Connect has numerous other facets to its implementation that are likely new to many or most on your in-house IT team.

Our highly experienced Epic consulting professionals can help you across the entire spectrum of the Epic Community Connect program. Even if you’re still in the exploration phase on whether this collaboration makes sense for your healthcare facility, we can help you reach a decision by analyzing what’s needed for this connection to occur and create a plan; help your organization establish timelines and tasks within your budget; and guide the implementation, integration, and optimization of the program. We have EHR consultants with expertise in training, creating process documentation, deploying the program, providing support, and much more.

If you’d like to discuss your goals and plans to engage in the Epic Systems Community Connect, please reach out to your expert team online or by calling (602) 903-7961.