By Kat Jercich for Healthcare IT News
Epic Systems will require all U.S.-based employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 1.
The electronic health record giant sent a notice on Friday informing staff of the new policy, along with updated guidance around masking.
“We need our staff to be fully vaccinated to continue our important work. We will work with each employee to discuss how they can safely get vaccinated, but we recognize some employees may choose not to get vaccinated and hence will not be able to continue in their role,” a spokesperson told Madison, Wisconsin’s NBC 15.
In response to questions about whether exemptions will be available for those unable to get the vaccine for medical reasons, Epic representatives told Healthcare IT News that its human resources team would be reaching out individually to those who may have specific issues to figure out the best next steps.
WHY IT MATTERS
Many healthcare companies have begun making noise about requiring employees to get vaccinated amidst a rising surge in the number of COVID-19 cases, especially among unvaccinated people.
But Epic is one of the first to implement such a policy.
The company notes that in order to be compliant, employees must have received their second vaccine by September 17. It says about 97% of employees at its Verona, Wisconsin, campus have already been fully vaccinated.
It plans to host two clinics for staff members to get the Pfizer vaccine in the next two months.
In addition to the new vaccine policy, as of August 3, Epic will also require mask wearing while getting food or drink at culinary outlets, including coffee carts. Individuals can remove their mask during consumption.
Masks will also be required in meeting rooms that have exceeded 75% capacity, and if anyone in a meeting prefers that everyone wear a mask.
“In other situations, if you’re fully vaccinated, you may decide whether to wear a mask while on Epic’s Verona campus. If you are not yet fully vaccinated, you still need to wear a mask indoors unless you are alone in your office,” read the notice, which was sent to Healthcare IT News.
“We’re proud that our company is helping to keep our coworkers, families, customers, their patients and our community safe,” read the notice.
THE LARGER TREND
Epic announced in early June that it would begin requiring employees to return to work in person at least part-time starting in mid-July.
A similar announcement the previous summer, when COVID-19 spread was uncontrolled, and when vaccines were nowhere close to available, had sparked backlash and an eventual rollback. But neither the updated return-to-work plan nor the new vaccine mandate has appeared to trigger the same level of employee resistance.
Meanwhile, Epic competitor Cerner announced that it was going in a different direction, with the majority of employees able to choose between working in the office or at home this fall.
ON THE RECORD
“In recent weeks, we’ve seen an increase in COVID-19 infections across the country. This increase has led to changed guidance from our public health authorities as recently as this afternoon, and there is understandable concern regarding safety,” read the notice sent to employees. “To quickly respond to this changing environment, we have updated our COVID-19 guidance.”