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CommonWell gives patients access to records

CommonWell Health Alliance has launched a new program that is expected to give patients the capability of more easily accessing their health records.

The initiative will begin with six electronic health record vendors: Aprima Medical Software, athenahealth, Cerner, Evident, Modernizing Medicine and RelayHealth. Two standalone patient portal vendors, Integrated Data Services and MediPortal, will offer an app enabling patients to access their records by year-end, says Jitin Asnaani, executive director at CommonWell, which now includes more than 40 health information technology vendors that are cooperating to improve interoperability.

“This is a really big step for patient empowerment because CommonWell can uniquely fetch data for the patient, regardless of where the patient data lies,” Asnaani says.

The use of patient portals to achieve this access offers a logical foundation for CommonWell program. That’s because portals are a mandated standard feature on electronic health record systems under the EHR meaningful use program, Asnaani notes.

Through participating vendors, patients can enroll in CommonWell. Patients then can self-link their health data wherever they receive care, view their data on the CommonWell network and share the data with providers. CommonWell is making data available via the network but the data remains within the provider HIT system where it was collected.

EHR vendors plan to educate their physician clients on the program to give patients access their records.

Physicians increasingly want this data sharing capability, Asnaani notes, because the MACRA, MIPS and Meaningful Use programs, as well as many health insurers, tie financial incentives to increased patient engagement. “What CommonWell is doing is making data sharing easier without interfaces and large costs,” he adds.

Whether vendors will charge physicians some sort of fee, however, is not yet clear, although Asnaani believes any such costs would not be prohibitive. Vendors are not paying CommonWell more for the service because the new program is included as part of other services they already get from the alliance.

Vendors, however, will have to build new application programming interfaces (APIs) into their EHR or portal to link with CommonWell. CommonWell will route data requests once linked at the physician office or by the enrolled individual.

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