Epic, leading candidate for Pentagon EHR, emerges from shadows

One of the front-runners for a multibillion-dollar contract to redesign the Pentagon’s vast medical record system is Epic Systems, a privately held, fiercely independent firm that, in the view of many health IT experts, epitomizes the best and the worst of the effort to transform America’s health information systems.

Competitors and some health care providers claim that Epic and its big-hospital customers pressure smaller practices to join Epic and the networks it serves by charging them large fees for sharing patient information if they don’t. But inside the Epic network, the information sharing is smooth compared with that of many makers of electronic health records.

If it wins the Defense contract, estimated at $11 billion and expected to be awarded in June, Epic will be poised to further extend its power in the industry. Already, the company holds the records of half the patients in the U.S., and the contract could enable Epic to set the terms for national issues such as the sharing of electronic health care records.