Epic Differences: Community Connect vs. Direct Contracting

This is another KLAS “first,” and I love firsts.  Historically, we have not broken out the two different Epic customer experiences, so providers looking at Epic scores for EpicCare ambulatory would see only a combined score of both directly-contracted and Community Connect customers. To convey the most accurate picture, we knew that we needed to break out those experiences. The Epic Ambulatory 2020—Community Connect report fills this substantial gap in KLAS data.

 Providers who are exploring these options will benefit immensely from having this increased visibility into their peers’ experiences, and the report highlights some fundamental questions. For example, a lot of ambulatory providers don’t even know that they have the option to contract directly with Epic. And if providers are looking at the Community Connect model as compared to a different vendor’s EMR, they can see a clearer picture of what they will be getting with Community Connect. These providers have likely heard about the full Epic experience from their colleagues, but can they expect to get that same experience, or a watered-down, diluted experience? With this information in hand, providers can more accurately compare Epic with the other vendors they’re considering for their EMR solution.

Understanding the Two Models

Fundamentally, Epic’s model is such that Epic will only contract with ambulatory organizations if they exceed 200,000 patient visits per year. If an organization has fewer visits than that, they currently do not have the option to contract directly with Epic.

Instead, ambulatory practices not meeting this metric can use Epic only through the Community Connect model. This model relies on a local host organization, which is typically an acute care organization. This acute organization offers Epic licenses to others through their core license. The key difference is in who manages the relationship. Directly contracted customers work solely with Epic, but with the Community Connect model, the acute care health system, or IDN, owns the primary relationship with the ambulatory organization.

The Overall Difference in Performance

As part of the Community Connect relationship, the host organization manages interactions like service and support, implementation, and training. While Epic will sometimes step in and do some things directly for implementation or other pieces, the bulk of managing the relationship lands on the originating Epic customer. Based on the data, we know this is a big reason for   why the customer experience between these two options varies across the board.

performance snapshotWhen we first began our research, we had a hypothesis that the Community Connect experience would score lower, but we did not guess that it would be around 13 points lower, which KLAS considers a large gap. However, these lower scores still place Community Connect solidly in the middle of the pack for ambulatory EMRs.

Epic’s Response

We know that Epic is taking very seriously the idea that they need to be more hands-on with Community Connect. Given the opportunity to review the findings, they were not comfortable with the reality that some Epic customers are dealing with a lesser experience. Though we don’t yet know specifics, Epic has communicated that they are probably going to implement some changes on their end to manage those relationships. What that looks like in the future and how well it works, only time and more provider feedback will tell.

If you are an ambulatory provider exploring these Epic options versus other EMRs, or, if you've ever wondered whether Epic is the right vendor for you in either a Community Connect or direct-contract situation, this report is a definite must-see. I recommend using it as a helpful tool to help answer those burning questions that you have.


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