Some of my recent notes have focused on the corporate culture of Epic Systems (see: Epic Systems and Its Corporate Culture; More on the Epic Culture: Is This a Cult or a Company?). This activity has brought to my attention a political tempest that has been brewing around Epic in its own back yard in Wisconsin (see: Epic Systems Should be WMC's Biggest Fan). Epic recently announced that it will no longer do business with companies associated with Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), a Wisconsin trade and lobbying organization. The reason for this boycott is Epic's opposition to WMC's involvement in the election of Michael Gableman to the State Supreme Court. This same article makes the following comment about Judy Faulkner, the CEO and founder of Epic (boldface emphasis mine):
Epic has always marched to its own beat. Founded and led by Judy Faulkner, the company has blossomed into one of the top five providers of automated medical record systems in the nation....She likes telling people that the company is growing 30% annually and has zero debt.... While on paper she has a number of advisory groups, no company decision of any consequence is made without her....[She refuses to] advertise or market [and shuns] traditional business planning....But she can do that because it is her company. She has no board of directors to answer to, no proxy votes to worry about and no annual shareholder meetings where she has to explain herself. In fact, the reclusive Ms. Faulkner feels little need to explain herself about anything.
Forbes.com had the following to say in a recent article about this same issue (see: Madison area company targets lobbying group):
[WMC's] participation in the recent state Supreme Court race won by ... Judge Michael Gableman has drawn the ire of Epic Systems, a medical records company in Verona that doesn't belong to the group. Epic said in a statement it was upset that WMC spent an estimated $1.8 million on that race and may pull business from local vendors who support the group. Those vendors included...J.P. Cullen & Sons, the contractor for Epic's more than $200 million campus expansion. CEO David Cullen resigned from WMC's board of directors on June 9 and his company dropped its membership....Epic's threat not to work with another company based on an election campaign appears to be the first of its kind nationwide, said Howard Schweber, a professor of law and political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Its action is perilously close to a type of illegal boycott that typically arises in labor disputes, Schweber said. "We should be uncomfortable when private businesses have enough power to coerce businesses or other organizations to change their political views or affiliations or keep them secret," Schweber said.
Here's more about Epic's actions from Professor Schweber (see: Howard Schweber: Epic's power should not be used to silence others). He himself is very critical of WMC but makes some very interesting points about primary versus secondary boycotts and this is the basis for his criticism of Epic. In the case of a secondary boycott, an attack is mounted on the supporters of the primary target.
What I find the most interesting about this controversy is that large health systems such as Kaiser are willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars for mission-critical clinical software supplied by a privately-held company like Epic that is so tightly controlled by its executive office and founder. This same issue may occasionally arise during the purchase of an LIS but the stakes are never as high.