CommonWell Health Alliance: Changing Interoperability?

CommonWell Health AllianceRumors of this announcement began swirling a few weeks prior to HIMSS 13. At first, it was just McKesson and Cerner coming together to agree on how to better exchange data between their two systems. The Healthcare IT News article highlights the change – “Six HIT heavy-hitters announce interoperability organization.” The six vendors in the initial announcement are:

  1. Cerner
  2. McKesson
  3. Allscripts
  4. athenahealth
  5. Greenway
  6. RelayHealth

My first reaction to this announcement is: “What took so long!”

Although this is a positive announcement and message, the devil will be in the details in how it is implemented and how quickly others join in. “What will Epic do?” is the other big question many are discussing.

CommonWell Health Alliance launched a website with some details. Their stated vision is:

“The CommonWell Health Alliance will be designed to be an independent not-for-profit trade association organization open to all health information technology vendors devoted to the simple vision that a patient’s data should be available to patients and providers regardless of where care occurs. Additionally, provider access to this data must be built-in to EHR technologies at a reasonable cost for use by a broad range of healthcare providers and the patients they serve.”

What is more interesting is their mission:

The CommonWell Health Alliance plans to promote and certify a national infrastructure with common standards and policies and will ensure that products that display the CommonWell Health Alliance seal have been certified to work on the national infrastructure. Among the early core components of the national infrastructure, CommonWell Health Alliance will define and promote the following core services and standards:

  •  Patient Linking and Matching – 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 – Foster a HIPAA-compliant, patient-controlled means to simplify the management of consents and authorizations for data sharing.
  • Record Locator Service and Directed Query – Enable providers to match the locations of a patient’s previous health care encounters, no matter where the encounter occurred, and gain access to that data in an industry standard way.

We have all either heard of or experienced the pain of vendors not working well together when it comes to healthcare integration or exchanging patient data. The vision and mission seems to be now is the time to change this. As Neal Patterson, chief executive officer of Cerner, said, “We believe the industry needs to step up to the challenges. This alliance is about setting aside the admittedly tough politics of this issue to do what is right for the health-care consumer.”

This is a positive announcement and initiative, and it will be an interesting and important one to watch unfold. With the public announcement, many groups will now be able to monitor the progress, hold accountability checks, and encourage others to engage.

What do you think will be the result of CommonWell Health Alliance? Do you believe this eventually will be a substantive change to better enable health information exchange and interoperability?


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Jon Mertz serves as the editor at and vice president of marketing at Corepoint Health. Jon is an advocate for strong patient engagement in their health and understands the key roles health literacy, patient data, and healthcare interoperability play in developing a better health care model. Follow Jon on Twitter.
  • Bob Pflug

    It’s essential to interoperability. I’m hoping they also offer
    patient-centric Cloud persistence. These personal Clouds could act like
    trusted catcher’s mitt’s that automatically accumulate health
    information. They’d catch ePHI pitched via the proposed Stage 3 Blue
    Button Plus payloads.

  • Jon Mertz

    Thanks, Bob. Blue Button Plus would be a great addition to this. Thanks!

  • Pingback: CommonWell Health Alliance - Changing Interoperability? via @JonMertz | #HITsm |

  • ShimCode

    Two good insights on CommonWell. Both NOT complimentary.

    Missed Opportunity:

    Behind the Curtain of
    Healthcare’s New CommonWell Alliance:

  • Jon Mertz

    Thanks, Steve, for adding this to the conversation!

  • blogbrevity

    Thank you for clearly and meaningfully outlining the ideas, Jon! As you said, “It will be an interesting and important one to watch unfold.”

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