CommonWell members to allow patients direct access to health data

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CommonWell Health Alliance, a group of healthcare stakeholders seeking to advance interoperability and seamless data exchange through a set of services and specifications, announced Tuesday it is extending information access to patients as well. Members of the alliance plan to allow patients to access CommonWell's services and their health data with the hopes of boosting care quality and coordination among providers.

CommonWell provides a centralized set of interoperability services that alliance members, which are mostly vendors, make accessible into their systems, whether it's an EHR, patient portal or patient-facing app. With the new offering, patients will be able to access their data on the CommonWell network — which includes data from alliance members — from whichever software or portal they choose, as long as that software is part of CommonWell.

Currently, patients who want to access their healthcare information online or through an app often have different portals or accounts set up with different healthcare providers that use different vendors. With CommonWell's new patient access initiative, the individual can essentially select whichever portal he or she likes the best — be it through an EHR vendor or an independent portal — and see an aggregate clinical history that draws information from various CommonWell member providers and pharmacies.

Jitin Asnaani, executive director of CommonWell, says opening this access to patients has two key value propositions. First, this access empowers and engages consumers in their care and makes them stewards of their own health information. This creates value for providers as patients are now partners in their care. Second, Mr. Asnaani notes the overhead costs associated with responding to patient requests for records. "By enabling consumers to go and get that data through a patient portal…or independent portal the consumer uses, as long as it's connected to CommonWell, it's an opportunity for them to go get the data and not have to occupy the time of already hard-pressed front desk staff," he says.

Mr. Asnaani says opening patients' access to their records is a natural extension of CommonWell's goal and previous initiatives enabling providers to access and exchange patient data. He says the alliance has always been directed by the individual patient, and everything the alliance seeks to accomplish intends to make data follow individual patients wherever they receive care. "From that point of view, nothing's changed," Mr. Asnaani says. "It's just another place from where data can be accessed, and that's directly by the patients themselves through a portal [or an] app."

More than 4,700 hospitals, ambulatory and post-acute care provider sites across the country use CommonWell services. Given this reach, Mr. Asnaani says this initiative certainly is momentous, but there is still a lot of work to do. While thousands of healthcare sites and their patients have access to this network, it's the first move in what Mr. Asnaani believes will be many more to better serve patients in all settings of care.

"It's both big, but it's also just a step," Mr. Asnaani says.

Two independent patient portals — Integrated Data Services and MediPortal — will be the first to go live on this offering in the fourth quarter of 2016. Other CommonWell members that have pledged commitment to this initiative include Aprima Medical Software, athenahealth, Cerner, Evident, Modernizing Medicine and RelayHealth.

With more than 50 members, CommonWell is optimistic about the reach this initiative will have. Mr. Asnaani says with so many members, it's likely that a patient's information will be connected to the network.

"Like anything else, it's not a silver bullet," he says. "But what we're doing for the very first time is to enable a consumer to go to any one of these properties and say, 'I need my data from everywhere.'" 

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