4 Takeaways from the Epic App Orchard Developer Conference

Earlier this month, I attended the first Epic App Orchard Conference on the Epic Systems campus in Verona, Wisc. Healthcare IT Leaders is a Silver App Orchard partner and our Epic customers have a keen interest in this new marketplace for Epic apps.

As our firm’s Chief Platform Officer, I went to learn what resources are available to us as app developers, and to get a better sense of Epic’s future plans for the App Orchard.

The event was relatively quick and small, lasting a day and a half with a few hundred of us in attendance.

>> Consulting for the Epic App Orchard

Having just attended Dreamforce the previous day, I appreciated the intimacy of this conference. The sessions were packed with great information, but the setting was informal, so it was easy to get answers to questions.  The speakers—mostly Epic program and product managers and engineers — were open and accessible.

Like most App Orchard partners, we are still in information gathering mode, but what we heard at the conference will definitely help us advise customers interested in building Epic apps.  Reflecting back on the event, here are a few of my major takeaways:

Kit and APIs are Critical Toolsets for App Developers

Caboodle is Epic’s data warehouse platform that can pull in disparate data sources from inside (and outside) of a healthcare entity. Kit overlays the data warehouse (Kit and Caboodle – get it?) and becomes a critical toolset for data extraction and app development that can be leveraged across multiple Epic customers. Epic’s commitment to Kit and Caboodle was strongly emphasized at the conference. Similarly, Epic is committed to its growing library of APIs that are keys to unlock Epic logic and patient records. A strong knowledge of Kit and Epic’s APIs is important for developers.

App Orchard is Built for Scale

The App Orchard launched earlier in the year with 15 apps. Since then, Epic has been building out the infrastructure and processes required to support partners and developers. The number of App Orchard partners grows monthly, and Epic is investing in more support staff and more test environments to enable the review and approval of many more apps over time.

Expect High Standards for Safety, Security and Support

Epic told attendees to expect rigorous technical reviews during the approval process. Apps must be ”well-behaved,” meaning they must work reliably, be secure and they cannot put patients or hospital operations at risk. App Orchard partners will need to have detailed plans (and resources) for ongoing maintenance and support of deployed apps.

Core Development Skills Required—But Not Certification

Module-specific certification is a hallmark of the Epic development community, but the App Orchard and its Open/API-driven model means any strong developer—even with limited Epic experience—can theoretically build and submit an app. Front-end skills and knowledge of java-script and web services are a solid profile for would-be Epic app developers. Epic will host ongoing developer events and training programs, but for now, there are no App Orchard-specific certifications required.