The quantity of global healthcare data is staggering — accounting for roughly a third of all data generated — and it is expected to increase exponentially in the coming years. In order to harness this information, modern healthcare providers need to have integrated information technology (IT) systems that maximize the value of electronic health records (EHRs). These systems allow healthcare professionals to more effectively provide services across the care continuum and can ultimately improve patient outcomes.
Implementing IT/EHR systems is a massive undertaking, typically taking months to complete and costing millions of dollars. An executive at Epic, one of the largest providers of health IT in the world, likens it to replacing a healthcare organization’s “central nervous system.” Healthcare organizations license IT systems from vendors like Epic, then hire consultants to help them integrate the system into their operations.
Within the field of health informatics, healthcare vendor consultants play a vital role. Healthcare organizations rely heavily on consultants to assist in IT implementation. Consultants guide the organizations through every stage of the process, from design to execution, to ensure seamless integration between the clinical and ancillary aspects of the organization.
One of the more in-demand healthcare vendor consultant roles is that of an Epic implementation consultant. According to Epic, more than 250 million patients have an EHR in their system, making it one of the most widely used health IT systems in the world. In 2020 alone, nearly 200 healthcare organizations in the U.S. and abroad implemented Epic, in part to assist with the unprecedented challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As more and more patient data is digitized, healthcare organizations will need Epic implementation consultants and other healthcare vendor consultants to help them manage and leverage this data. Those interested in being a part of the future of health IT can enhance their career opportunities with an advanced degree, such as a master’s in health informatics.
What Is Epic Consulting, and What Do Healthcare Vendor Consultants Do?
A health IT system is essential in the field of modern healthcare. It gives healthcare organizations the ability to organize and manage their data, particularly EHRs, within an integrated system to streamline operations and improve the patient experience. With EHRs, a patient’s information can be shared across providers and systems, and patients can monitor lab results and track their health.
An Epic system is comprehensive, with a suite of software applications that support various health system functions, including:
- Storing patient records
- Registration and scheduling
- Clinical systems for healthcare professionals
- Systems for lab technicians, pharmacists and radiologists
- Billing and finance
Epic also includes dedicated modules that provide support for the many different elements within a healthcare organization. Epic has modules for cardiology, behavioral health, dental, oncology and urgent care, to name a few.
When implementing IT systems, healthcare organizations have to consider what aspects of care need support and then determine how the IT hardware and software should be set up to best provide that support. Healthcare vendor consulting is vital to the healthcare industry in this regard, particularly for organizations that don’t have their own IT teams.
Given the widespread use of Epic services, Epic consultants are particularly coveted. So what is Epic consulting? As the title implies, an Epic implementation consultant directs the implementation of the Epic IT system at a healthcare organization.
An Epic consultant must have significant technical expertise to understand how IT affects the different parts of an organization — including ancillary and clinical systems — and how to integrate Epic applications into a healthcare organization’s workflows and technologies. Epic consultants work with a healthcare organization throughout the implementation process, from the planning and design phase to execution, and continue to provide support after implementation.
Communication and Leadership
Healthcare vendor consultants don’t just provide technical support, they also exercise leadership and communication skills. Executing a successful implementation requires organization-wide buy-in and collaboration across departments. Therefore, consultants must work with an organization’s leaders to promote and communicate the value of implementation to the entire staff.
The early stages of implementation often involve surveying and interviewing staff members to discover their needs and expectations. During this process, consultants work with various stakeholders, from the front desk to physicians and researchers, so communication skills are vital.
Consultants also help develop and perform training for staff, so they must be able to effectively communicate with individuals at every level of the organization.
Epic Consultant Job Description
Epic implementation consultants and other health vendor consultants have many responsibilities. It’s a multifaceted job with many moving parts.
An Epic consultant job description can take different forms—varying by organization and the specific role needed—but it generally involves overseeing the design, implementation and execution of Epic systems at healthcare organizations.
Prior to implementation, an Epic consultant will help the organization set the scope and budget for the project, and work with stakeholders to design a system that is customized to the organization’s specific needs. Using their expertise and knowledge of the Epic system, a consultant guides the organization through this process, helping them cherry-pick which applications or modules will provide the best support.
By familiarizing themselves with an organization’s workflows and technologies, Epic builders can understand the impacts of the system design prior to implementation. They also test extensively to make sure all Epic applications are integrated and work cohesively and that they interface properly with an organization’s clinical and ancillary systems.
Epic consultants work directly with leadership to create a detailed implementation plan, broken down into phases. They must prepare the staff for implementation, communicating the organization’s vision and training personnel on the Epic system.
Implementation often entails migrating sensitive data to the new system. That can mean a temporary drop in productivity, which Epic implementation consultants can help an organization navigate as well.
During the go-live phase of an Epic implementation, consultants make sure the system functions properly and identify and assist clients with any issues that crop up. Epic consultants also assist with system upgrades and provide ongoing technical support to ensure the system is performing optimally.
The ultimate goal of an Epic implementation — or any health IT system implementation — is to improve the patient experience. By lending their expertise, healthcare vendor consultants ensure that the system is optimized to make clinicians’ jobs easier while improving patient outcomes.
For example, Access Community Health Network in Chicago employed Epic’s automated campaign module to reach more than 300,000 patients to remind them to get a flu shot in 2021. As a result, the number of patients who received a shot increased by 6% compared to 2020. The same module can be used to remind patients to schedule preventive care visits or even COVID-19 vaccine appointments.
The Epic system offers a host of benefits to providers and patients, including:
- Provides clinicians access to patient data at the point of care
- Gives patients access to their own records, including care information and financial details
- Allows healthcare organizations to more easily share patient data between departments and with other providers, ensuring a more seamless care experience
Epic Consultant Salary
As a result of the competitive nature of the job market — and the demands of the job itself — a career as an Epic consultant can be highly lucrative.
According to PayScale, the median annual Epic consultant salary was approximately $117,000 as of June 2021. Salaries can vary considerably, however, for Epic consultants and other healthcare vendor consultants. Factors such as education level, experience and location can have a significant influence on the salary for this role. Candidates with an advanced degree or several years of work experience often earn higher salaries than those with less education or experience.
Location can also affect compensation. Six of the 10 cities where Epic consultants earn the most are on the West Coast, notably in California, according to ZipRecruiter. Since metropolitan areas have a greater concentration of hospitals and healthcare organizations, they are likely to offer higher salaries for healthcare vendor consultants.
Additionally, while many consultants are paid an annual salary, some are compensated on an hourly basis. Hourly rates for healthcare vendor consultants also vary considerably based on the above factors.
Though specific projections for job growth in the field of healthcare vendor consulting are limited, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment of medical and health services managers will grow by 32% between 2019 and 2029, eight times faster than the national average for all occupations. As the country’s population of baby boomers — estimated at around 70 million — continues to age and remain active later in life, demand will likely increase for healthcare services. That means more physicians, nurses and other healthcare workers, as well as more medical facilities and services. As a result, demand for individuals who organize and manage medical information — like Epic consultants — is likely to increase as well.
The BLS also projects that the widespread use of EHRs will continue to create job opportunities for those with knowledge of health IT and informatics systems, which is good news for healthcare vendor consultants.
What Are Some Epic Consultant Jobs?
Jobs for healthcare vendor consultants often fall into one of two categories. Some are more technical in nature, such as that of analyst, while others place consultants in a leadership role, like that of healthcare IT strategy consultant. Both categories are critical to the successful implementation and operation of an IT system.
- Analysts monitor and analyze data and implement system updates, as well as assess and resolve performance issues within IT systems. They work with system users to address technical concerns, ensuring that the hardware and software are operating optimally.
- Healthcare IT strategy consultants advise health care organizations on IT strategy and planning. They work with stakeholders to identify needs and risks and develop strategies for minimizing potential issues. They’re often responsible for leading clients through implementation of an IT system and communicating the organization’s vision to secure buy-in from staff.
Jobs for Epic Consultants
Because of how comprehensive the system is, a successful Epic implementation requires a large team of people. As a result, there are many different kinds of Epic consultant jobs, with roles that often focus on implementation, training and maintenance.
Epic implementation consultants work with a healthcare organization to customize the Epic system based on the organization’s specific needs and develop strategies for executing implementation. They collaborate with stakeholders to identify potential problem areas and plan around them. Consultants focused on implementation are also responsible for communicating with the organization’s staff, ensuring buy-in and collaboration throughout the implementation process.
Epic trainers work with clients through multiple phases of an implementation, from planning and design through to go-live. They are responsible for developing a training program and instructing staff on the system, including training individuals who can train other staff members.
Epic consultants who are responsible for maintenance provide support to organizations post-implementation. They help monitor the system for issues and troubleshoot as problems arise. The Epic system requires occasional upgrades for optimal security and functionality, and Epic consultants guide clients through this process. Some organizations have on-site consultants to provide upgrade support, while others rely on remote assistance, such as a service desk.
Other Epic Consultant Jobs
Epic consultants may have other roles with different focuses, such as:
- Advisory services
- Community outreach
- Data migration
- Go-live support
A career as an Epic implementation consultant often involves a lot of travel. Consultants assist healthcare organizations with implementation, which usually entails being on-site to work directly with a client. One perk of being a consultant is that, as a result of the travel-heavy nature of their work, they often have the freedom to live anywhere in the country. Some consultants may work from an office, such as managed services analysts. These individuals provide support to different clients by monitoring and assessing healthcare IT issues.
How to Become an Epic Consultant
The work of healthcare vendor consultants is highly specialized, typically entailing years of education, experience and training. The payoff is that these jobs are in high demand and often lucrative.
The first step to becoming an Epic consultant is earning the right degree. Healthcare vendor consultants typically need at least a bachelor’s degree to land a job in the field. Consultants should have a strong foundation in IT skills, so degrees in IT, computer science or computer programming are common, along with coursework in health administration and health information systems.
Some employers may also require an advanced degree. Even when not required, a master’s degree, such as a Master of Science in Health Informatics, can provide a competitive advantage in a job search. These programs help students hone essential technical skills and provide a comprehensive understanding of how healthcare data is collected and how IT systems operate within the healthcare industry.
Many employers also prefer candidates to have some work experience before taking on a consulting role. Vendor consultants need to understand how healthcare organizations operate and how IT systems interact with the various clinical and ancillary elements, so experience in the healthcare industry is extremely valuable. The amount of experience required varies, though several recent job postings for healthcare vendor consultants on LinkedIn and Indeed listed three-plus years’ experience in healthcare as a primary qualification. More experienced candidates generally command higher salaries.
In addition to the role’s education and experience prerequisites, Epic implementation consultants must also hold an Epic certification. Obtaining a certification involves in-depth training and a mock implementation at Epic’s headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin. The most direct path to certification is to be employed by Epic. Barring that, there are two other options.
- Work for a healthcare provider that uses Epic or is about to undergo Epic implementation. An organization must sponsor you and pay for your training.
- Work for a consulting group that provides support to Epic clients. Similarly, they can sponsor your certification as a healthcare organization would.
Because the paths to certification are limited, Epic certifications are highly valued in the healthcare IT field and can greatly boost your job prospects. Epic offers a variety of certifications, each one pertaining to a different health system function. Some in-demand certifications include the following:
- Ambulatory (clinical documentation, e-prescribing)
- ASAP (emergency room)
- Bugsy (infection control)
- Cadence (appointment scheduling)
- Cupid (cardiology)
- Healthy Planet (population health management)
- Resolute (billing)
- Stork (obstetrics)
- Willow (pharmacy)
In addition to their technical expertise, Epic consultants should possess a number of critical soft skills. These skills are crucial to overseeing successful IT implementation. They include:
- Critical thinking
- Relationship building
- Presentation skills
- Time management
- Project management
An Important Role in Health Informatics
Tech-driven solutions, including integrated IT systems that manage patient records, are key to advancing healthcare delivery and improving patient outcomes. Healthcare vendor consultants, such as Epic implementation consultants, play a pivotal role by supporting healthcare providers in adopting this technology.
As the population ages and people remain active later in life, increasing demand for healthcare services, many opportunities will be available for healthcare vendor consultants who have the right qualifications. An advanced degree, such as the University of Illinois at Chicago’s online Master of Science in Health Informatics, can help individuals gain the essential skills they need to pursue a career in this field.