Growth Slow for CommonWell Alliance Data Exchange Effort

Five Pacific Northwest clients of electronic health records vendor Cerner have joined the CommonWell Health Alliance that offers health information exchange. The new clients demonstrate growth of the alliance while at the same time showing some of its continuing weaknesses.

Created two years ago by seven vendors including Cerner, CommonWell now has about 30 vendors—up from 25 in mid-April—who have pledged to cooperate to accelerate interoperability. But many of the members are not yet technically able to exchange data through McKesson Relay Health, which operates the health information exchange.

So, while Cerner clients Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Evergreen Health, Tuality Healthcare and Mason General Hospital & Family of Clinics will share records with regional physicians, the sharing right now is limited to practices that use Greenway Health or athenahealth electronic health records. These new provider members of CommonWell can share records with other providers across the nation that already use the service. But that isn’t a lot of providers.

Also See: Hospitals Use Paper, Electronic Methods for Summary of Care Records Exchange

In mid-April, CommonWell announced that more than 60 provider sites were live and the organization pledged 5,000 sites live during 2015. In late August, 70 provider sites were live and a CommonWell spokesperson said the organization still expects to reach the goal.

Some vendors, including athenahealth, Evident (formerly CPSI) and McKesson (for Paragon users) offer CommonWell to providers for free. Cerner clients receive CommonWell services at no cost for five years after they sign an agreement, with the exception of a one-time setup fee. (The Cerner policy is a correction of a previous version of this story).

 CommonWell services are built into a provider’s EHR workflow to ease data exchange.

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