CommonWell Announces Its First HIE Customers

12-12-2013 5-34-42 PM

By far, the biggest news coming out of HIMSS13 was the unveiling of CommonWell, a vendor-operated health information exchange founded through a partnership between Cerner, McKesson, Allscripts, Athenahealth, and Greenway. The partnership made instant news. The promises from CommonWell themselves were grand, as their self-congratulating press release extolled, “This historic 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.” Clearly, CommonWell intended to leave no problem unsolved.

To deliver an affordable, vendor-agnostic interoperability solution, free from geographic constraints, truly would revolutionize data sharing within the US healthcare market. The media ran with the story, and many applauded it as a sign of teamwork and collegial responsibility within the EHR vendor space. Others in the industry scoffed, writing it off as  much-ado-about-nothing or even, as Epic CEO Judy Faulkner described it, an alliance focused on creating a competitive weapon. In the end, the news settled and everyone waited to see what the organization was going to actually do.

For eight months, things were quiet. In July, CPSI and Sunquest joined the partnership, and shortly after CommonWell introduced its board of directors, with one member coming from each partner organization, but no tangible interoperability news was announced. That changes this week. CommonWell has announced the details of its preliminary network, including geography, customers, and a launch date of January 2014.

For those hoping that CommonWell would quickly become a major disruptor, the announcement came as a bit of a letdown. The nationwide HIE will launch in just three locations: Chicago, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Within those geographies, two hospitals and three clinics will represent the initial members of the HIE data exchange:

  • Palmetto Health, a Cerner Customer in Columbia, SC
  • Maria Parham Medical Center, a McKesson customer in Henderson, NC
  • Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital, a CPSI customer in Elkin, NC
  • Midlands Orthopaedics, an athenahealth customer in Columbia, SC
  • Lake Shore Obstetrics & Gynecology, a Greenway customer in Chicago, IL

“Regions within Illinois, North Carolina and South Carolina were chosen because they provide a good footprint of the alliance’s founding member companies’ health IT systems, along with a strong desire among clients to make interoperability a reality.”  – Jeremy Delinsky, chairman of the CommonWell board.

Many assumed that the initial customer list would be small, comprising only one or two customers per vendor that could be used to ensure that interoperability was working across vendors before the floodgates were opened to the general public. This launch falls short of that assumption, with no customer representation from either Allscripts or Sunquest making it into the initial customer base.

Still, there’s plenty to be exited about with the CommonWell announcement. While it may be a long road to true interoperability, if a successful HIE can be established across all participating members, it would mean potential data liquidity across 42 percent of US hospitals, and 23 percent of the ambulatory market.

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