CommonWell gets rolling on data exchange

December 11, 2013 in Medical Technology

CommonWell Health Alliance has tapped the first three geographic locations for its rollout of interoperability services. Hospitals and ambulatory practices in Chicago, North Carolina and South Carolina will connect to exchange patient data.

The providers taking part in the interoperability project include Lake Shore Obstetrics Gynecology in Chicago; Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital in Elkin, N.C.; Maria Parham Medical Center in Henderson, N.C.; and Midlands Orthopaedics and Palmetto Health, both of Columbia, S.C.

The project represents the first fruition of the mission announced when CommonWell’s first six vendor members – Allscripts, athenahealth, Cerner, Greenway, McKesson and RelayHealth – came together at HIMSS13 in New Orleans this past March: connecting providers of all stripes, helping them exchange data with ease among disparate care settings, irrespective of vendor or IT system.

Together, the alliance’s members – CPSI and Sunquest joined the founding companies in July, and more firms are invited to join, officials say – represent 42 percent of the acute and 23 percent of the ambulatory EHR market.

[See also: Two join CommonWell Health Alliance]

“Our goal was to not build new standards where standards already exist,” Scott Stuewe, director of client results at Cerner, who leads CommonWell’s program management committee. “We pretty much tried to utilize the existing IHE standards around XCA document exchange as our starting point.”

It was crucial that those standards be “built-in.” said Stuewe. “The big differentiator, I think, is that since the suppliers are leading this exercise, it’s a matter of us building these capabilities into our applications and committing to do that.”

The participating sites hope to validate CommonWell’s patient-centric vision of identity and matching, officials say, enabling a consent-driven record sharing and retrieval process across their care facilities.

The initial providers will manage patient consent protocol, identify whether other providers have data for patients enrolled in the network and transmit data to fellow providers who have consent to view data on those patients.

When CommonWell was first announced in March, Cerner CEO Neal Patterson emphasized that, “We’re competitors. We’re going to go back and compete. We’re here because of a common value system.”

[See also: QA: McKesson and Cerner execs discuss CommonWell Health Alliance]

Indeed, says Stuewe, that competitive spark made for some challenges.

“We’re constrained a little bit,” he said, by the “issues that you might imagine competitors would have. We can’t, for instance, share our client lists. This was one of the big challenges: Come up with a list of places where we could exchange data, but not share our client lists.

The sites chosen “had a good understanding of their marketplace and their network,” said Stuewe. “We could leverage that to flesh out the opportunities. It was pretty challenging to find the places we could all work, but we were in the end able to find good value for clients by working with some of those anchor clients.”

Participating providers should reap the benefits of the speed and cost efficiency afforded by interoperability. Patients will be empowered too – controlling access to their data through an opt-in process and facilitating the linking of their records by confirming matches and by providing additional information to validate their identity.

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