Epic Systems has opened its App Orchard, a program allowing hospitals and clinics that use Epic’s patient records software to share apps they’ve built and browse third-party digital health products that have been configured to work with Epic.

Sumit Rana, senior vice president of research and development at Verona, WI-based Epic, said App Orchard makes it simpler for the company’s customers and outside software developers to build apps that exchange data with Epic’s tools. App Orchard “covers the gamut from specifications to development sandboxes to a marketplace for listing your apps,” said Rana, speaking earlier this week to a crowd that included thousands of Epic customers.

Why it matters: The Mayo Clinic, Partners HealthCare, and other leading healthcare providers around the world use Epic’s software, which is designed not only to let physicians document information on their patients in clinical settings, but also for things like insurance verification and billing for care. Epic has been criticized in the past for not making its products more open to other software developers. Opening the hospital-facing front end of App Orchard, a move some correctly suspected Epic would announce at its large users conference this week, represents a step in the direction of openness.

Details: Since February, when Epic formally introduced App Orchard, it’s been working with other healthtech companies to establish a framework for the program, Rana said. There are currently 15 apps listed in the App Orchard “gallery.” They include products developed by three Wisconsin-based startups: Healthfinch, HealthDecision, and ImageMoverMD.

Rana said that in order to get a product listed on App Orchard, developers must disclose to Epic their practices for keeping patient data private and escalating concerns related to patient safety. They also must explain how much strain their software is likely to put on hospitals’ computing resources, he said.

App Orchard is also a way for Epic customers to share apps they’ve developed in-house. Many of these healthcare providers have indicated to the company that they intend to let other organizations that use Epic’s software install their apps for free, Rana said.

Future plans: Epic will hold an App Orchard Conference on Nov. 9 and 10 at its corporate campus in Wisconsin. The event includes Epic customers’ internal software development teams, as well as employees of other digital health companies, Rana said.

Jeff Buchanan is the editor of Xconomy Wisconsin. Email: jbuchanan@xconomy.com Follow @_jeffbuchanan

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