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Beyond EHR Optimization: The Advisory Board’s Barras Parses the Post-Implementation Challenges Facing CIOs

July 23, 2017
by Mark Hagland
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As the leaders of patient care organizations move forward into the post-EHR-implementation phase, they face a welter of challenges around interoperability and analytics for performance improvement

As the leaders of patient care organizations move forward into the post-implementation phase around electronic health records (EHRs), they face a welter of challenges. Facing intensifying and accelerating policy, payment, business, operational, and clinical practice challenges, they are realizing that what has been called “EHR optimization” is really a very broad set of challenges around interoperability, information systems optimization, and IT strategy, organized around the need for patient care systems to become remarkably more efficient, cost-effective, and demonstrative of improved patient outcomes, and more clinician end-user-friendly, all with the ultimate aim of organization performance improvement.

One person who has spent a great deal of time helping healthcare IT leaders work through these issues is Rob Barras, a national partner, consulting, at The Advisory Board Company (Washington, D.C.), and responsible for leading pursuits on electronic health record (EHR) planning, optimization, implementation and go-live solutions. He is a 27-year veteran of health care IT, and has worked for years as a consultant, as well as at vendor company organizations. Recently, the Philadelphia-based Barras spoke with Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland about the challenges around EHR optimization in the current policy and operational landscape of U.S. healthcare. Below are excerpts from that interview.

Looking at the present moment in evolution of the U.S. healthcare system, what is the landscape like right now for EHR optimization, from your perspective?

When I speak to audiences of Advisory Board Company member organizations, I’ve been sharing with them a summary presentation that focuses on five key challenges that healthcare IT leaders are facing in the next five years, broadly speaking. The first of the five, and the foremost among them, is the need for healthcare IT leaders to create value from the EHR investments that their organizations have made over the last few years. That sounds easy, and it’s something that everyone talks about; but prioritization becomes the real value. CIOs say, I’m being asked to do more with less, and how do I do that? And I say, prioritize—make sure you’re adding value to the organization. And the ones doing better are doing more with less; so that’s number one.


Rob Barras

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The next four key challenges easily fall under that first one. The second would be leveraging IT to enable value-based care—and that means pursuing things around risk identification and capture. In that context, healthcare IT leaders need to look at the HCC (hierarchical condition categories) model, as articulated by CMS [the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] to determine the complexity of a patient population. Two years ago, I would have said that 80 percent of CIOs, or really anyone—COOs, CFOs—had very little concept of HCC and risk-adjusted reimbursement; but that proportion has flipped now. And you’re starting to see the vendors get more involved in that work. But it’s very complex, and risky if you’re not documenting appropriately. But over the next five years, we’ll make progress in that important area.

The third key challenge is a set of challenges around interoperability. Looking at where we’ve been in healthcare and where we need to get to, it really is unbelievable that we’ve still got such a low proportion of interoperability; but progress is happening. The fourth key challenge is the ever-changing provider landscape. The acceleration of mergers and acquisitions reinforces care variation and increases cost. So we’re going to have to manage that and help standardize and decrease costs. And the fifth key challenge would be creating value from data. I sometimes hesitate to use the word “analytics,” because it’s over-used. Really, “analytics” just means making use of the data that is there or might be there. We need to move towards predictive analytics for risk assessment and management of populations.

From what we’re hearing from CIOs, CMIOs, and healthcare IT leaders across the country, healthcare IT leaders are getting stuck trying to put analytics solutions on top of EHRs, with regard to interoperability and ease of use.

I absolutely agree. And in that context, I recommend to everyone that they begin with data governance. Who are the operational stakeholders for each piece of data? How do we identify terms? How do we standardize terms internally? Length of stay may mean different things in different service areas. So you’ll need to develop a data dictionary. Go through that governance process first, and develop what we call an analytics roadmap. So now, let’s create that roadmap of what the requirements are in each area—everything from what dashboards we need in each clinical area, to what the dashboards are that are needed to manage specific at-risk populations. And ask, is my EHR vendor going to provide everything I need to manage all of this, or do I need another tool? And the thing is, there’s so much noise out there at HIMSS [the annual HIMSS Conference, sponsored by the Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society], and everywhere.

What CIOs and other healthcare IT leaders are telling us is that they’re having to do a lot of customization, in order to make their analytics solutions work for them.

I completely agree. Regardless of what the vendors are saying, there is not an easy, off-the-shelf solution out there. And very often, much of the work needs to be done by the health systems themselves; and they’re just incapable of getting there, for some very good reasons. A, it’s very complex; and B, we’re in the middle of probably the greatest change this industry has seen, and trying to narrow down what your data requirements will be five years from now, is very difficult. And data governance is one thing. In terms of the roadmap, our recommendation often is, just wait: you’re doing OK managing spreadsheets—and right now, if you can’t articulate what your requirements will be a year from now, just wait; and that’s OK.

In other words, what you’re saying is, don’t try to boil the ocean; instead, start with good use cases and build from those, correct?

Yes, I agree completely. It’s exactly why we recommend to many of our members to just hold off [on purchasing new commercial analytics solutions]. There’s just so much [business and policy] activity right now. I mean, there are some things that won’t change, but from a legislative standpoint, we know where we’re going. And regardless of where we end up legislatively, the model is moving towards value. That we do know. But really, that policy shift is driving market activity, which is driving the inability for many organizations to determine what they should do. For organizational leaders who believe that their organizations are stable—they’ve already merged with the organization across town, for example—if they feel stable, now you’ve got a better feel for what the requirements are [in terms of their organizations’ needs for analytics capabilities]. We’ve decided we’re going to be really, really good at these five areas, and we’re going to have a center of excellence around this particular area. Then that gives you the clarity.

How should CIOs and CMIOs look at the horizon around this subject, projecting out, five years from now?

This is probably more of my background speaking more than anything else. I spent the first seven or eight years of my career on interoperability. That really is the greatest challenge. And over the next five years, that’s where we need to make the biggest leaps. And I don’t know whether we’ll need government intervention—in fact, I do think we will need a meaningful use for interoperability. We really need to get that intervention. The challenge is that we still largely live in a proprietary, fee-for-service-based world, and we’re hoarding data and information; and we need a signal to tell us to stop hoarding the data. But if I were a CIO, I would be more focused on that. And ensuring that I have the greatest percentage of a patient’s record, electronically, access to it, that would be my focus. That’s more of my background, back in the CHINs [community health information networks, the forerunners of today’s health information exchanges, or HIEs] era.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Really, I think that there’s a lot to focus on there with regard to those five key challenges. I spend an entire 90-minute presentation on those key challenges, to our members, in member presentations. So that’s enough to work on, right? There’s a lot of stuff to do. The prioritization thing is really a big challenge for health systems. So my final advice would be to do what’s important, and forget the rest.

 

 

 


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Where is the Information Blocking Rule? Health IT Now Criticizes Missed Deadline

December 17, 2018
by Heather Landi, Associate Editor
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Industry group Health IT Now, a coalition of healthcare and technology companies, responded today to the Trump Administration's latest missed deadline for publication of a proposed information blocking rule as required under the 21st Century Cures law.

The proposed rule was sent by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on September 17, 2018, setting off a 90-day timeline for the agency to complete its review; a period which was now expired without publication of a proposed rule, according to Health IT Now.

The onus to publish the regulation falls on ONC, the health IT branch of the federal government that is tasked with carrying out specific duties that are required under the 21st Century Cures Act, which was signed into law in December 2016. Some of the core health IT components of the Cures legislation include encouraging interoperability of electronic health records (EHRs) and patient access to health data, discouraging information blocking, reducing physician documentation burden, as well as creating a reporting system on EHR usability.

The information blocking part of the law has gotten significant attention since many stakeholders believe that true interoperability will not be achieved if vendors and providers act to impede the flow of health data for proprietary reasons.

“Now, more than two years after 21st Century Cures was enacted, patients and providers are still without an information blocking rule - undermining the intent of the law,” Health IT Now officials stated.

ONC has delayed regulation around information blocking a few times already, previously stating that the rule would be released in April then revising its timeline to September, before finally submitting the rule to OMB on September 17th.  

As previously reported by Healthcare Informatics Managing Editor Rajiv Leventhal, during an Aug. 8 episode of the Pulse Check podcast from Politico, National Coordinator for Health IT Donald Rucker, M.D., said that the rule is "deep in the federal clearance process." And even more recently, a bipartisan amendment to the U.S. Senate's Department of Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2019 includes a requirement for the Trump administration to provide Congress with an update, by September 30.

“It is stunning that, more than two years after 21st Century Cures became law, we are still waiting on regulators to actually do what the law says,” HITN Executive Director Joel White said in a statement issued Monday. “Patients and providers have looked on with disappointment as the administration blows through one missed deadline after another for publicly releasing a proposed information blocking rule. It is time to say 'enough.' By continuing to slow walk these regulations, the administration is adding to uncertainty in the marketplace and is quickly reaching a point whereby it will be in obvious defiance of the spirit of the Cures law.”

White further stated, “Lawmakers who worked doggedly to get this landmark, bipartisan bill across the finish line should be incensed by the way that bureaucratic delays have weakened their signature achievement. This holiday season, the best gift that OMB could give consumers would be an expedited completion of its review and the public release of a robust information blocking rule. In the meantime, we are hopeful that industry stakeholders will not delay interoperability initiatives as a result of the ambiguity created by these continued delays.”

It is not the first time that the Health IT Now executive director has been publicly critical of the Trump administration for not yet publishing any regulation on information blocking. In an op-ed published September 8 in STAT, White wrote, “More than 600 days after the enactment of the Cures Act, not a single regulation has been issued on information blocking.” White added in frustration, “Health IT Now has met with countless officials in the Trump administration who share our commitment to combat information blocking. But those sentiments must be met with meaningful action.”

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Intermountain CMIO Stan Huff on the Need for Greater Interoperability: “We’re Killing Too Many People”

December 6, 2018
by Rajiv Leventhal, Managing Editor
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About 250,000 people die per year due to preventable medical errors, and that’s the biggest motivator there is for more advanced interoperability, says one clinical IT leader

Stan Huff, M.D., chief medical informatics officer (CMIO) at the Salt Lake City, Utah-based Intermountain Healthcare for the past 31 years, has long been a top leader in his field. Working on the leadership team for a health system like Intermountain and serving as a co-chair of the HL7 Clinical Information Modeling Initiative (CIMI), while also having been a former member of the ONC Health IT Standards Committee, Huff has a wealth of knowledge coming from both provider- and standards-focused perspectives.

Huff, who represented Intermountain at a White House meeting on interoperability this week, recently chatted with Healthcare Informatics about all things interoperability, including the different types of data exchange that exist today, the greatest barriers, and how potential pending regulations could shake up the landscape. Below are excerpts from that discussion.

When you look at the interoperability landscape today, how bullish are you on where things stand, broadly speaking? Or rather than bullish, are you more concerned?

I don’t know if I am bullish or not, but I think we are making progress—and it’s significant progress. There is an incredible amount of work to be done. I’m not concerned at the progress; I am happy, but mindful of how much work is left to do to really reap the benefits that people are hoping for.

You’re currently a co-chair of the HL7 Clinical Information Modeling Initiative while also having been a member of former the ONC Health IT Standards Committee. How important is it to figure out the issues around standards before things can progress?

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I wish it had a higher priority. Most of the time when people are talking about interoperability now, they are thinking about caring for an individual patient and thinking about sharing information between different systems that have information on that patient. They are usually thinking about EHR [electronic health record]-to-EHR for patient care—they have a very focused idea.

But there are other dimensions. There is interoperability relative to public health, meaning how we share data from an organization to a public health [entity] so that we understand what’s going on with a whole population relative to a particular disease.

There is also research interoperability, so we can share data that’s coming from research activities. And closely related to that is interoperability of clinical trial data and all of the randomized controlled trial data that comes with that.

Then there is interoperability that comes from devices and data coming from devices, which is a whole field onto itself. So you have to be careful when you talk about interoperability. This is one axis of interoperability, in that it has to do with the scope of systems you are communicating with.

The other axis of interoperability has to do with how truly interoperable you are, and there are different levels there as well. One level is the interoperability you get with the HL7 version 2 [standard], where you have a structure and people know how to send messages between systems. And there is a lot of negotiation that happens when you set up an HL7 version 2 interface to say what terminology you are using, and if you send something as two fields or one field. There is a lot that goes on there and that’s helped quite a bit when you talk about HL7 FHIR [Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources]—it has a more defined structure and has more things specified about terminology use.

And then you can get an even better of interoperability if you are using the Argonaut [Project] profiles. But even at that Argonaut profile level, you aren’t plug-and-play interoperable. There still is ambiguity in the Argonaut definitions that lead to different implementations by different companies and organizations.

The highest level is what I would call “plug-and-play” where this no bilateral negotiation around terminology or anything like that. The standard is explicit enough so that it could be tested for conformance and you can say whether a given system is conformant or not, and the data can be used in the way it was intended. We don’t have any plug-and-play interoperability to speak of right now, and that’s what I’m trying to shoot for.

One of three biggest motivators for me is patient safety. There is really good and convincing data that shows we are killing 250,000 people per year due to preventable medical errors. And that won’t be solved by “zero harm” programs, or by “sort of” interoperable systems. In the end, the “sort of” interoperable systems means that a person still has to look at things and make a judgment. And people are not perfect information processors. So you need a situation where the data is explicit enough where I can write rules that prevent the death or improper treatment of patients.

And we are not at that level yet. How urgent is it? I think it’s incredibly urgent and you can make an argument that it’s more important than lots of other things we’re spending money on that would have less of an impact on patient care. I work in this area, so yes, I am biased.

But I’m persuaded that it’s worth an investment, and to get to where I want to get to will not be easy. This won’t be something where you make one $20 million investment and then it’s done; it will take five or 10 years, and you will make incremental progress over that period of time. Think of it like a military campaign or a crusade, because it’s that type of timeframe and scale where you need planning and infrastructure to really accomplish what we want to do in the end—which is save lives, decrease the cost of care, and reduce the burden of clinicians.

Many folks believe that until the business incentives change, stakeholders will not be incentivized to be open with their systems. Do you agree with this and how much incentive exists today?

There isn’t a whole lot of incentive yet. If the patient care and safety issues were sufficient enough incentives, then this would have been solved a long time ago because those incentives have been there. People know and understand that we’re not caring for patients in the best way possible. And it’s the financial and proprietary considerations that keep us from doing that, ultimately.

We have to be careful [with incentives] though, because there are unexpected consequences. Going back to when I was on the HIT Standards Committee, we thought that we were doing useful and good for U.S. healthcare when we set up the meaningful use measures. And while meaningful use solved the EHR adoption issue, what it taught people was how to manage measures but not manage quality.

People became incredibly good when it came to managing the measures to get paid and to meet the qualifications, but I don’t think anyone would assert that those things improved the quality of care in any measurable way. So I think we didn’t meet the goal that we were shooting for—providing better quality care at a lower cost.

The ONC annual conference took place last week, and there seemed to be significant conversations around pending regulations such as possibly making interoperability a requirement to stay in Medicare and prohibiting information blocking. How does all of this land for you?

I welcome the change; it’s a good as thing you move from meaningful use to promoting interoperability. What I don’t know is if these specific [rules] being proposed are going to accomplish what [we want]. We thought we were doing the right things back when we were doing meaningful use.

At a high level, I would agree that it would be wonderful to require interoperability as a requirement for Medicare participation. But it’s undefined. When talking about the dimensions and these things, there has to be an understood and a useful level for the interoperability that’s required. But I haven’t seen the details to know whether what’s being asked for is both achievable and valuable if it were to be achieved. But I do agree with the [overall] direction.

Intermountain is often at the forefront of health and health IT initiatives such as its sponsorship of the Opioid Community Collaborative. How can these learnings be shared so they can improve the digital healthcare ecosystem?

The thing I try to emphasize to people is that if you look at what we are doing, and you take it in aggregate across the country—the things people are applying decision support to—it’s a tiny part of what we could do. And the reason for that is we don’t have interoperability. You can create a good program at Intermountain, or at Kaiser Permanente, or at Mayo Clinic, but the only place it works well is where it was developed. You cannot move it. If you move it, you have to recreate it. Until you have interoperability, I can’t write a rule that works on top of a Cerner system and also on an Epic system, or for that matter works on two different Cerner implementations. This cannot happen until you have those platforms supplying APIs so I can hook my decision support up to their system without rewriting all of the logic in a different technology platform.

So we are doing good things, and want to continue to do good things, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if what we did, or what the University of Utah is doing with opioids, can be directly moved and used, in the same way people can buy apps for their iPhones in the app store, or any other platform.

The realization is we might be doing 150 things at Intermountain in terms of decision support applications, but there is an opportunity to do 5,000 things, and we will never get to those 5,000 things unless we get to an interoperable platform so that when knowledge is created it can be shared. That’s my real emphasis behind interoperability.

 


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KLAS: EHR Vendors Making Significant Progress with CommonWell, Carequality Connection

December 4, 2018
by Heather Landi, Associate Editor
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While most EHR vendors have connections to the national network, only athenahealth and Epic customers have connected en masse, KLAS reports
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With the establishment of connectivity between CommonWell and Carequality, announced back in August, as well as other interoperability advancements by electronic health record (EHR) vendors, the ability to exchange patient records is within the reach of most acute care or clinic-based provider organizations, regardless of size or financial situation, according to a new report from Orem, Utah-based KLAS Research.

In the report, “Interoperability: Real Progress with Patient Record Sharing Via CommonWell and Carequality,” KLAS researchers note that since the last KLAS report on interoperability, which was published in March 2018, the acute care/ambulatory EHR market has taken critical steps forward in sharing data via national networks. The most notable advancements include the establishment of the CommonWell-Carequality link, Meditech’s initial connection to CommonWell, and notable Carequality adoption among NextGen Healthcare customers, according to KLAS researchers.

Most of the prevalent acute care/ambulatory EHR vendors are connected to the national framework, marking significant progress for interoperability, according to KLAS researchers. The report findings come a few weeks after CommonWell and Carequality announced that the connection to the Carequality framework was “generally available.” Cerner and Greenway Health successfully completed a focused rollout of the connection with a handful of their provider clients, who have been exchanging data daily with Carequality-enabled providers, CommonWell officials said.

In August, CommonWell Health Alliance and Carequality announced initial connectivity, which is the beginning of a broader effort to increase health data exchange nationwide, and builds on an announcement made almost two years ago. In December 2016, CommonWell and Carequality announced connectivity and collaboration efforts with the aim of providing additional health data sharing options for stakeholders. Officials said that the immediate focus of the work between Carequality and CommonWell would be on extending providers’ ability to request and retrieve medical records electronically from other providers. In the past year and a half, teams at both organizations have been working to establish that connectivity.

Now, since the connection went live in July, officials noted that CommonWell-enabled providers have bilaterally exchanged more than 200,000 documents with Carequality-enabled providers locally and nationwide, as reported by Healthcare Informatics in November.

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CommonWell, an alliance formed five years ago, operates a health data sharing network that enables interoperability using a suite of services aiming to simplify cross-vendor nationwide data exchange. Major vendors connecting to CommonWell include athenahealth, Cerner, CPSI, eClinicalWorks, Greenway Health and Meditech.

Meanwhile, Carequality, an initiative of The Sequoia Project that launched about a year later, is a national-level, consensus-built, common interoperability framework to enable exchange between and among health data sharing networks. Vendors using Carequality include athenahealth, Epic, eClinicalWorks and NextGen Healthcare. Nearly all major EHR vendors have aligned with one or both of these options, according to KLAS.

Together, CommonWell members and Carequality participants represent more than 90 percent of the acute EHR market and nearly 60 percent of the ambulatory EHR market. Today, more than 15,000 hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare organizations have been actively deployed under the Carequality framework or CommonWell network, officials attest.

This latest KLAS interoperability follows a report back in March in which KLAS researchers positioned that the CommonWell Health Alliance’s interoperability efforts were hindered by a lack of provider adoption and its interoperability services currently lacked value. However, when CommonWell and Carequality eventually connect, “instant value” will be created for users, KLAS researchers attested in that report.

Currently, Epic is not a member of CommonWell, despite other major EHR vendors pushing them in that direction. Back in 2015, athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush famously tweeted to Epic’s CEO Judy Faulkner that his company would pay for Epic to join.

Indeed, KLAS reported in March that CommonWell will likely see a significant adoption increase with a solid Carequality connection. “Since its launch five years ago, the tendency to over-market the level of adoption of CommonWell has created apprehension and a lack of trust among potential participants and prompted this report, showing a snapshot of providers’ success,” the researchers said in the March report. KLAS researchers also claimed that when CommonWell connects to Carequality, “the entire Epic base will become available, creating instant value for most areas of the country.”

Following the publication of that report, CommonWell’s Executive Director Jitin Asnaani, in an exclusive interview with Healthcare Informatics, defended his organization’s mission and attested that the network is continuing to grow and prove its worth.

Asnaani also critiqued the KLAS report’s claim that vendors such as athenahealth and Epic give their customers a head start by enabling plug-and-play data sharing via Carequality. Asnaani called this specific critique “totally bogus,” asserting that the quality of data sharing is dependent on the vendors rather than dependent on CommonWell or Carequality.

KLAS Assessment on the Progress of CommonWell-Carequality Connection

In this latest report, KLAS researchers focused specifically on the progress EHR vendors have made in sharing patient records via the standardized (plug-and-play) networks of CommonWell and Carequality.

KLAS researchers assert that this focus is important because the “plug-and-play” option is the “only option” that allows provider organizations “avoid significant costs, delays, and organizational workload.”

KLAS also acknowledged that “virtually all major EMR vendors can successfully share patient records through the traditional point-to-point connections (a costlier approach in terms of time, resources, ongoing maintenance, and money), local HIEs (health information exchanges) and direct exchange (where records are manually sent to other providers).”

Referring to the CommonWell-Carequality connectivity as the “connection heard round the U.S.,” KLAS researchers contend that this connection should be “key in driving value and opening the floodgates so that any provider organization that desires to can exchange patient records with relative ease and little cost.” KLAS plans to measure the impact of this sharing in a 2020 interoperability report.

According to the report, this fall, two CommonWell-connected Cerner organizations tested and validated the ability to connect with Epic sites via Carequality. “Their initial reports are that the connection enables data sharing with critical partners otherwise out of their reach and adds tremendous value to their existing CommonWell exchange. The Epic sites involved indicate that they also are able to see and consume data via the new connection,” KLAS researchers wrote.

In a blog post, KLAS researcher Corey Tate, the author of the latest KLAS report, reiterated the value of the CommonWell-Carequality connection with regard to the availability of Epic data to provider organizations who connect. “Access to the Epic data is exactly what was talked about by the initial sites that tested the CommonWell connection to Carequality. Ironically enough, Epic’s intra-operability, which was initially dismissed, will likely be the catalyst that pulls widespread patient-record sharing forward. “

Currently, all but two of the other major EHR vendors—athenahealth, Cerner, CPSI, eClinicalWorks, Epic, Greenway Health, MEDITECH, NextGen Healthcare, and Virence Health (formerly GE Healthcare)—have customers connecting, according to KLAS. At this point, Allscripts and MedHost have yet to connect to CommonWell or Carequality. However, Allscripts recently announced more solidified plans to have their Carequality connection ready in Q1 2019 and to then roll it out in product updates throughout the year, according to KLAS. MedHost has been aligned with CommonWell since 2014 but has yet to have any live connections, KLAS researchers state.

While all of these vendors have connections to this national network, only athenahealth and Epic customers have connected en masse, according to Tate, in his blog post. “Each vendor has more than 90 percent of their customers connected. Cerner is next at around 35 percent. Many other vendors’ customer bases are just getting started,” Tate wrote.

“Epic and athenahealth have near complete uptake among their customers, allowing them to work on the next steps for interoperability, such as fine-tuning usability and increasing value for clinicians,” KLAs researchers wrote in the latest report. The researchers noted that plug-and-play sharing is “virtually invisible and automatic” for athenahealth and Epic customers, and “both vendors remove the big obstacles” to providers’ success.

KLAS researchers also highlight Epic’s and athenahealth’s approach to facilitating participation, via an opt-out approach, and removing governance barriers, via predetermined handling of outside data. The researchers contend that this indicates that “regardless of customer size, vendors can facilitate widespread adoption if they choose.”

NextGen Healthcare and eClinicalWorks show the most notable progress in connecting to the national framework, according to KLAS. Since NextGen Healthcare made their bidirectional connection available in Q1 2018, customers have rapidly taken up connections to Carequality. “With 80 customers connected, there is still much room for additional uptake—though NextGen has removed both financial and technical barriers to make this a reality. eClinicalWorks customers have also rapidly taken up connections, with nearly triple the number participating today (~2,500) compared to March 2018,” according to the report.

Meditech also made their first connection to CommonWell, and CPSI has made notable progress this year as well, KLAS reports. Cerner continues to actively push for customer participation and has added 35 hospital customers.

“Virence Health (GE Healthcare) has been slower to get out of the gate despite good feedback from early adopters,” the KLAS researchers wrote. “Greenway Health also doesn’t have much momentum, and overall, interviewed Greenway organizations are the least excited about their CommonWell connection.”

KLAS researchers also note that with CommonWell and Carequality linked, the biggest technical obstacle to widespread patient-record sharing has been removed, and the biggest remaining obstacle is local community adoption. “The healthcare industry is rapidly approaching the point where an organization using any of the major acute care/ambulatory EMRs should be able to easily connect to other provider organizations with minimal cost and effort,” KLAS researchers state. “Many vendors have eliminated obstacles on the path to data exchange—all but Virence offer connections to customers at no cost, and all but Cerner have made this plug and play by removing technical barriers.”

“Today, the biggest barriers preventing widespread participation are governance and the need for organizations to decide to participate. Even Epic and athenahealth customers report diminished value from their connection when local exchange partners opt not to connect to the national networks,” KLAS researchers wrote in the report. KLAs also believes that until other vendors take an opt-out approach, provider organization leaders will need to be proactive in promoting local connections to the networks to ensure high value from the connection.


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