CommonWell, Carequality link seen as basis for nationwide interoperability

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Healthcare stakeholders see last week’s announcement linking CommonWell Health Alliance to the Carequality framework as a watershed moment on the road to achieving nationwide interoperability.

At its core is the Carequality framework, providing for trusted national exchange through common “rules of the road,” defined technical specifications, as well as a participant directory.

Jitin Asnaani, executive director of CommonWell Health Alliance, describes the collaboration as a “golden spike” moment for health IT in which “two of the largest interoperability communities have come together and are now going to be enabled to exchange data with each other—which is amazing for patients and providers alike.”

Specifically, the linkage will enable CommonWell- and Carequality-enabled healthcare providers to connect and bilaterally exchange health data via some of the industry’s leading electronic health record vendors.

“Many in the industry have worked hard to connect data flows across the major EHR vendors,” says John Halamka, MD, chief information officer at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “This announcement has significant impact on healthcare information exchange between vendors and demonstrates that the industry can work closely together.”

“As a member of the CommonWell Health Alliance, this connection to Carequality will help patient data to be accessible across many systems, truly supporting nationwide interoperability for the patient,” adds Kashif Rathore, vice president of interoperability at EHR vendor Cerner. “We have already seen this to be tremendously helpful in expediting the right treatment and avoiding unnecessary costs.”

In December 2016, CommonWell Health Alliance and The Sequoia Project announced an agreement to increase HIT connectivity nationwide, including providing additional health data sharing options between Carequality—an initiative of The Sequoia Project—and CommonWell.

“Carequality is very excited to see CommonWell make its participation in Carequality generally available to all CommonWell members,” says Dave Cassel, executive director of Carequality. “CommonWell’s membership represents a vital component of the U.S. healthcare system, and enabling these organizations to join the already thriving exchange community within Carequality will bring us closer to our shared goal of ensuring that patients’ records truly can follow them wherever they may go, nationwide.”

Micky Tripathi, president and CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, contends that the CommonWell-Carequality connection is a “significant milestone” that the industry will look back on as a “turning point” in healthcare interoperability.

“Imagine a mobile wireless world where Verizon and AT&T weren’t connected—both networks provide great services to their own customers, but you couldn’t talk to anyone on the other network,” says Tripathi. “This milestone is that level of significance for interoperability. Something like 80 percent of the hospitals and ambulatory offices in the country use EHR systems that are part of either Carequality or CommonWell.”

Also See: Commonwell, Carequality aim to expand data exchange

“We can now sincerely say that for most providers and patients, we have a nationwide interoperability network that most care providers have access to—regardless of EHR system, geography, or care setting,” adds Tripathi.

At the same time, he notes that it’s important to recognize that adoption will still take some time to gain momentum.

“Each member vendor of CommonWell has to upgrade their systems and recruit their customers to join the network, which will happen vendor by vendor and customer by customer,” Tripathi observes. “This announcement should spur every EHR user who isn’t connected to Carequality or CommonWell already to demand it from their vendor immediately.”

Halamka believes that the next major leap will occur as the healthcare industry—including CommonWell and Carequality—adopt Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) application programming interfaces (APIs) “making technical integration even easier.”

Stan Huff, MD, chief medical informatics officer at Intermountain Healthcare, applauded news of the CommonWell-Carequality connection as an essential step towards “true” interoperability.

“It would be great to see some Epic sites added to the list of sites that are using the new connectivity,” Huff adds.

However, CommonWell’s Asnaani responds that it is up to the discretion of Epic and Carequality to disclose which provider sites are participating and actively exchanging data.

“Any Epic sites already connected to Carequality will be able to exchange data with connected CommonWell sites immediately and with no special effort—since Epic and CommonWell are both Carequality implementers—so the fact that no specific Epic sites have been named is really just stylistic,” concludes Asnaani.

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