'We EHR vendors have not made it easy for you to interoperate.'
As CommonWell Health Alliance, the new interoperability coalition of health IT companies, approaches the start of its first pilot project, company officials used AHIMA’s annual conference in Atlanta to underscore the biggest health information exchange hurdles currently facing vendors and providers.
"If you want to share information with five organizations, you need 10 contracts," Dan Schipfer, senior vice president at Cerner pointed out Monday morning, explaining that regional HIE is happening, but thus far has been limited to local exchange.
"We EHR vendors have not made it easy for you to interoperate," within the nomenclature and the organization, he said. "It’s a big deal, it’s something you believe in, we believe in, but there are challenges."
Joining Schipfer on stage, Patrice Wolfe, senior vice president of McKesson’s RelayHealth unit, outlined what she sees as the top three challenges.
The first, Wolfe explained, is patient matching. Simply put, there’s no single way to match patients, which is among CommonWell’s chief goals to address.
The second challenge pertains to data access. Health information today lives in silos, and even among integrated delivery networks, doctors don’t always get the entire picture of a patient’s record.
And lastly, with no surprise, the third challenge relates to cost issues. This one cannot be underestimated, Wolfe said; after CommonWell launched at HIMSS13 "hospitals were begging to be part of the pilot," Wolfe said.
Considering the pilot as infrastructure that would enable HIE, Wolfe said that we as a nation have to be able to pull data nationally, not just regionally.
That's why CommonWell is creating a database of consenting patients, which Wolfe was careful to explain is not a central repository of clinical information, to address business deterrents that Schipfer rattled off, including cost, competition, complexity and consent.
Wolfe added that CommonWell is working to deliver a handful of tasks such as registering organizations, enrolling people, matching patients, and querying documents.
"We think we have a better mousetrap," Wolfe added. "Let’s let the basic plumbing get done once and share it across the vendors."
On Wednesday, CommonWell officials announced its board of directors.
Jeremy Delinsky, the chief technology officer at athenahealth, will serve as board chair. Allscripts Vice President of Strategic Initiatives was appointed vice chair. Bob Robke, vice president of Cerner, will assume the position of treasurer, and McKesson's SVP Rod O'Reilly; CPSI's Executive VP Scott Schneider; Greenway's Justin Barnes and Sunquest's Keith Laughman have also been appointed board members.
When CommonWell launched at HIMSS13, the alliance – initially including Cerner, athenahealth, McKesson, RelayHealth, Allscripts and Greenway – was thought by some to be a team up against Epic, as the EHR giant was not invited to be part of the group before the announcement, which caused Epic CEO Judith Faulker to call the alliance a "competitive weapon."
However, McKesson CEO John Hammergren told Healthcare IT News' Mike Miliard back in March, "The only reason (Epic) wasn’t at the table, from my perspective, is that we needed speed to get the deal done, and I don't think anyone had as close a working relationship, perhaps, with Epic, as we do with this group."
Just last month, however, eClinicalWorks announced an interoperability pact with Epic. "Because both companies supported the national interoperability standards, we were able to quickly and efficiently implement this connection," said Epic's Peter DeVault, in a September news release announcing the partnership.
This story first appeared in Government Health IT here.