CommonWell Health Alliance Announced at HIMSS13

CommonWell Health AllianceSix healthcare IT giants announced this week the launch of a nonprofit organization to promote interoperability and universal access to healthcare data.  At Monday’s press conference at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS13) conference, executives from Cerner, Allscripts, Greenway EMR, athenahealth (a Revenue Cycle Management company), McKesson, and McKesson subsidiary RelayHealth pledged to collaborate in the effort to create and define common platforms and policies for a certified national infrastructure, in order to achieve data liquidity between systems.  The CommonWell Health Alliance aims to improve the quality of care delivery while also lowering the overall cost of healthcare for patients, providers, and the entire industry.

Imagine that one of the nation’s telephone carriers refused to allow incoming or outgoing calls outside of its network, or used a proprietary area code system that didn’t match up with everyone else’s.  We wouldn’t find such a solution to be acceptable, and yet that is the scenario in today’s healthcare IT world.  McKesson Corporation chairman and CEO John Hammergren stated, “The formation of this alliance takes healthcare a step closer to broad industry interoperability.”  Neal Patterson, CEO and president of Cerner Corporation, agreed that the vendors needed to take the steps necessary to ensure that data was accessible, and referred to the new partnership as a beginning, saying, “We basically need data liquidity that’s in the guardrails of security, safety, and privacy.  Our government is not going to deal with this problem.”

Touching upon the crux of the interoperability issue, Patterson allowed that “When we try to move information between different organizations that have different IDs, or between different systems’ architectures, there is no ID to connect the two databases.”  Paul Black, president and CEO of Allscripts, the maker of Allscripts Professional EHR, said, “This alliance provides a framework that will enable patient identification and record-sharing for providers across the nation.  This is good for care providers, for patients, and for the country.”  Concurring was Tee Green, president and CEO of Greenway Medical Technologies (maker of PrimeSUITE), who noted that “Allowing data to flow more freely fits the needs of a mobile society just as providers are taking on more financial risk in coordinating care.”  athenahealth, Inc.’s CEO and chairman Jonathan Bush pointed out that “…the promise of the free flow of health information and the reality of it today are worlds apart.  We support the CommonWell Health Alliance because we believe that being open matters, especially when it comes to patient care.”

The participating vendors represent 41% of the hospital EHR market, and 23% of the ambulatory EHR market, according to a spokesperson for McKesson, maker of Medisoft, Lytec, and McKesson Practice Choice.  While Patterson acknowledged that “We’re competitors.  We’re going to go back home and compete,” he and the other executives stressed their “common value system” and the desire to improve patient outcomes and reduce the cost of healthcare through interoperability or “data liquidity.”

Hammergren noted that there was an open invitation to all healthcare IT companies to sign on, calling the effort an “industry-led approach… one we hope everyone will join with us on.”  The founding members of the CommonWell Health Alliance invite all HIT suppliers to join them in working together to provide seamless, trusted access to health information, in support of better, more cost-effective care for their patients and communities.

Early core component services and standards to be defined and promoted are:

  • Patient Linking and Matching (to provide a way for vendors to identify patients as they move from setting to setting, in a robust and seamless industry-wide data environment
  • Patient Access and Consent Management (to foster a HIPAA-compliant, patient-controlled means to simplify the management of consents and authorizations for data sharing)
  • Record Locator Service and Directed Query (to enable providers to match the locations of a patient’s previous healthcare encounters, no matter where the encounter occurred, and gain access to that data in an industry-standard way)

Update: PrimeSuite by Greenway announeced a free connection to the commonWell for PrimeSuite clients to find out more click on this link.