Since its launch in 2017, Epic's App Orchard has grown tremendously. Asparia (formerly SimplifiMed) was one of the very first companies to participate in this marketplace. Our launch created an entire new category - chatbots. As a pioneer in that space, Epic invited me to present at its annual conference. I still get goose bumps remembering the audience's overwhelming response and how I spent nearly an hour answering questions after the presentation. The questions were very insightful and helped us further develop the product – but they also provided an early hint that prospective customers (Epic users) need support when picking an app from the marketplace.
Over the last two years, I have personally provided that feedback and guidance to the potential customers who reached out to us. However, as our company expanded, I realized that I unfortunately couldn't speak with every customer. I worked on developing other team members to be able to support clients through their decisions. As we continue to grow, I wanted to share that guidance with the Epic community through our blog.
Step-1: Identify companies
Compared to a Google search, finding solutions in the App Orchard can be underwhelming. However, users can search for apps using a keyword, categories, or user context.
Starting with a keyword search can help identify a few companies as a starting point. As the picture above shows, when you search for "chatbot" you see several companies. While these five companies are listed as a chatbot, depending on the use case, you can expand your choices by trying different keywords. Sometimes, the Epic clients that reach out to us aren't looking for a chatbot, but we're always happy to see if we can help them streamline patient engagement.
Step-2: Narrow the category
As you review your search results, start taking note of "Functional Areas" for the apps that appear to meet your requirements. Generally, these "Functional Areas" closely resemble "Category" filters shown in the first image.
After making a list of categories that meet your requirements, go back to the search screen – but instead of searching by keyword, create a list of apps by picking the categories.
Step-3: Review "Incoming APIs"
Having gone through the App Orchard approval process multiple times, I know Epic goes over the app description with a fine-tooth comb. But marketers find creative ways to pass through that approval and make claims that might confuse the audience. That's where my final step comes in handy.
In this step, look for the "Incoming APIs" section shown after the description. I wish that Epic could make it stand out a bit more so that it is more easily visible.
You should use "Incoming APIs" to validate claims made by the app developer. For example, if a chatbot app claims to enable patient self-scheduling, check to see if the app has access to APIs that can pull appointment slots and schedule the appointment. If the APIs are not specifically listed, the app is most likely using expensive and dated HL-7 interfaces which can add cost and complexity to your solution.
In closing, the App Orchard is a tremendous resource for the Epic community. I have been privileged to help our customers navigate it, and I hope that those of you who are looking for solutions find this advice helpful. We're excited to be part of the marketplace and look forward to serving your chatbot needs.