How CommonWell is Approaching Interoperability

CommonWell Health Alliance, a group of 11 health IT companies focused on fostering data exchange among healthcare stakeholders, has announced an important step toward more robust data exchange happening this summer.

"We're doing what was missing in healthcare — creating a standard health ID," says Dan Schipfer, CommonWell's acting executive director. "You have medical record and health plan member numbers, but there's really no standard… That's the first thing we are trying to solve — a creation of that standard."

Unlike many health information exchanges, which just serve as a middleman for data exchange, CommonWell will host the central patient directory and apply the same patient identification standards to all patients in the system.

Patients will register directly with CommonWell, but to help ensure patient identity, will do so directly from the provider organization. "There's an increased level of authentication and privacy because it's a two-person transaction, it's not someone randomly enrolling on a website," says Mr. Schipfer. Then CommonWell will link records from different providers about the same patient, giving providers using the exchange platform assurance of the patient's identity.

"This is the new piece — knowing who the person is, and making sure it's the person they want," he says.

A pilot project using the new system launched earlier this year in Chicago, Elkin, N.C., Henderson, N.C., and Columbia, S.C. Currently live at more than 10 different providers, thousands of patients have been enrolled.

The CommonWell vendors, including Greenway, athenahealth, Allscripts, Sunquest, CPSI, Cerner, CVS, MEDHOST and McKesson, represent about 42 percent of the current acute electronic health record market, according to a report from KLAS. With the recent addition of post-acute EHR provider Brightree and iOS-based practice management and EHR software vendor MacPractice, the organization is poised to continue its expansion and bring more companies and providers into the organization.

Mr. Schipfer expects the new system to be popular with providers. "We've created something more in line with what they want for their communities," he says. "What's different is we have information on individuals and, when they're patients, we have links to their records as a healthcare person… [hospitals] take care of folks as individuals, and so do we."

More Articles on CommonWell:

10 of the Biggest Rivalries in Healthcare
50 Things to Know About Epic, Cerner, MEDITECH, McKesson, athenahealth and Other Major EHR Vendors
5 EHR Vendors Announce Plans for Total Interoperability by Summer

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