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Interoperability is goal of EHR vendor alliance


Healthcare information technology companies Cerner, McKesson, Allscripts, athenahealth, Greenway Medical Technologies, and RelayHealth have launched the CommonWell Health Alliance to support universal, trusted access to healthcare data through seamless interoperability.

Healthcare information technology (HIT) companies Cerner, McKesson, Allscripts, athenahealth, Greenway Medical Technologies, and RelayHealth have launched the CommonWell Health Alliance, planned to be an independent, not-for-profit organization that will support universal, trusted access to healthcare data through seamless interoperability. This effort is aimed at improving the quality of care delivery while working to lower costs for care providers, patients, and the industry as a whole.

“The formation of this alliance takes healthcare a step closer to broad industry interoperability," says John Hammergren, chairman and chief executive officer (CEO), McKesson Corp. "A national and trusted health information exchange will break down the information silos in healthcare and should dramatically improve the quality and cost effectiveness of care delivery.

The alliance will define, promote, and certify a national infrastructure with common platforms and policies, he adds, and will ensure that HIT products displaying the alliance seal are certified to work on the national infrastructure.

“We believe the industry needs to step up to the challenges of interoperability,” says Neal Patterson, co-founder, chairman, CEO, and president, Cerner. “If we can rise to the challenge as an industry, we have a chance to deliver a golden era of healthcare. It is a system where consumers not only have a right to their data, but also have the ability to mobilize [them] in the pursuit of better health. This alliance is about setting aside the admittedly tough politics of this issue to do what is right for the healthcare consumer.”

Elements of the alliance’s national infrastructure will be tested in a local pilot within the next year. Early components will include the following core services:

  • cross-entity patient linking and matching services to help developers and providers link and match patients as they transition through care facilities, regardless of the underlying software system;

  • patient consent and data access management to foster Health Insurance Portability and Accoutability Act-compliant and simple patient-centered management of data sharing consents and authorizations; and

  • patient record locator and directed query services to help providers deliver a history of recent patient care encounters, and, with appropriate authorization, patient data across multiple providers and episodes of care.

Interoperability is the focus of the second stage of meaningful use of certified electronic health record (EHR) technology to achieve health and efficiency goals. "Eligible professionals," including physicians, can receive funds through the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs if they meet certain criteria. In October, Farzad Mostashari, MD, of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, told those attending the American Academy of Family Physicians annual meeting that they should “see, expect, demand” that their EHR systems meet interoperability standards over the next 9 to 12 months.

Other comments on the alliance:

  • Janet Marchibroda, director of the Health Innovation Initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center: “The formation of the CommonWell Health Alliance will be a significant step forward toward the electronic exchange of health information to support clinicians and patients. The founding members of the Alliance are focused on exactly the right foundational areas, and it’s terrific to see industry leaders stepping up to solve the problem of interoperability on behalf of providers and patients everywhere.”

  • Paul Black, president and CEO of Allscripts: “Allscripts’ vision has been to create a true connected community of health. We believe open platforms are required to realize that vision and make the improvements our healthcare delivery system needs to dramatically improve outcomes while reducing cost. 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.”

  • Tee Green, president and CEO of Greenway: “Greenway has anticipated this evolution to a smarter health care system based on open collaboration and data flow. We’ve been telling caregivers the marketplace can provide it and sustain it, and they are right to expect it. Consumers are no different, and a patient-enabled approach to data access will foster a deeper and more efficient patient-provider relationship. 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. We are committed to the Alliance goals and our ongoing participation as this initiative grows.”

  • Jonathan Bush, CEO and chairman, athenahealth, Inc.: “We’ve built athenahealth on the vision that health care needs an information backbone that facilitates and incents true health information exchange. However, 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. CommonWell’s efforts to bring major developers together to pilot patient linking and matching across IT systems and care settings is an important step in the right direction. We look forward to helping lead these efforts as a founding member of the Alliance."

McKesson and athenahealth are among the EHR vendors participating in the Medical Economics EHR Best Practices Study, which pairs vendors and primary care practices to test fully functional EHRs for 2 years. The primary care physicians are receiving installation, training, and support and in exchange have agreed to detail their experiences for their fellow physicians.




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Announcing the Medical Economics EHR Best Practices Study

Mostashari: Demand EHR interoperability

Interoperability could hinder electronic information sharing

The disconnect between EHRs and health information exchange

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