Philips Medical, Epic Systems partner on IT integration
Royal Philips Electronics N.V. and Epic Systems Corp. are aligning to integrate Epic's patient-centric, enterprise-wide healthcare information systems with Philips' medical imaging, picture archiving and communication system (PACS), and patient monitoring products.

 As a result, Philips will market information technology (IT) products powered by Epic software as part of Philips Vequion line. Epic will exclusively deliver enterprise healthcare IT products to its market of large healthcare organizations, academic medical centers and children's healthcare systems.

 Philips began its initiative to become more active in healthcare IT about two years ago under the direction of then-president and CEO Hans Barella.

 "The problem was we did not have a rich healthcare IT portfolio and some of our major competitors were making major moves into that direction," said Stan Smits, CEO of global medical information technology (MIT) for Philips Medical Systems. He initially met with Epic some 18 months ago to explore the partnership potential.

 Epic "wants to extend the reach of their products to the mid-size hospitals in the U.S., which they are currently not able to address," Smits added. "We had to investigate together if that was technically feasible, because those hospitals have totally different budgets for implementing IT systems than the large institutions."

 Both Philips and Epic have respective technologies installed at The Cleveland Clinic and Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania. Both companies see the healthcare providers as instrumental in determining how Philips and Epic "can bring the various products into a better integrated version and use the Cleveland Clinic and other facilities as a sounding board for the IT," Smits said.

 Product integration also will progress at Epic's headquarters in Madison, Wis., and Philips' research-and-development center in nearby Milwaukee. Introduction of the first integrated products is anticipated late in 2004.

 Geisinger Health System CEO Frank Richards said the Philips-Epic partnership "should help expand the overall adoption of electronic medical records, which have been cited as important tools for promoting patient safety."

 Smits concurred, adding that healthcare providers "want to move to a uniform electronic health record, because they believe it will greatly improve the efficiency of the organization, reduce errors and make information much more pervasive throughout the institution. That's the hold grail everyone is after."