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CommonWell, Carequality Agree to Collaborate for More Advanced Interoperability

December 14, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Interoperability guru Micky Tripathi says this agreement serves as “the last core building block” for health information exchange from a technical and network perspective

CommonWell Health Alliance and Carequality have announced connectivity and collaboration efforts that will aim to provide additional health data sharing options for stakeholders.

The agreement specifically has three core aspects, according to officials in a joint press release announcement today:

  • CommonWell will become a Carequality implementer on behalf of its members and their clients, enabling CommonWell subscribers to engage in health information exchange through directed queries with any Carequality participant.
  • Carequality will work with CommonWell to make a Carequality-compliant version of the CommonWell record locator service available to any provider organization participating in Carequality.
  • CommonWell and The Sequoia Project, the non-profit parent under which Carequality operates, have agreed to these initial connectivity efforts and will explore additional collaboration opportunities in the future.

Officials noted that while future collaboration could touch on many different areas within healthcare IT, the immediate focus of the work between Carequality and CommonWell will be on extending providers’ ability to request and retrieve medical records electronically from other providers. Some types of information exchange capabilities, such as electronic prescribing and electronic lab results delivery, are already widely adopted. However, variation in data exchange implementation is still a challenge for some providers looking to exchange medical records with others across the care continuum, they said.

CommonWell Health Alliance operates a health data sharing network that enables interoperability using a suite of services aiming to simplify cross-vendor nationwide data exchange. Services include patient ID management, advanced record location, and query/retrieve broker services, allowing a single query to retrieve multiple records for a patient from member systems.

Meanwhile, Carequality, an initiative of The Sequoia Project, is a national-level, consensus-built, common interoperability framework to enable exchange between and among health data sharing networks. It brings together electronic health record (EHR) vendors, record locator service (RLS) providers and other types of existing networks from the private sector and government, to determine technical and policy agreements to enable data to flow between and among networks and platforms.

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 noted.

Micky Tripathi, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, who was heavily involved in the facilitating and negotiating of the agreement as he sits on the board of directors of The Sequoia Project and also does project management work for CommonWell, notes that the arrangement is “akin to AT&T and Verizon Wireless cell phones finally being able to talk to each other.” Tripathi says that as it previously stood, there was a lot of development and network formation, and maturity on both sides, but in siloes. “Providers were facing issues on the ground level.”

He adds, “A large provider organization I know is switching from Cerner to Epic. So Cerner is in CommonWell but not in Carequality, and [vice versa] for Epic. And the CIO said to me six months ago that he’s not looking forward to the conversations he will have to have with his clinicians, which is  that you have great interoperability with your current system and your future system but the bad news is you won’t have the interoperability with the same people. Now he doesn’t have to say that to his doctors anymore since [they all] are connected to the same people regardless of what network you are on,” Tripathi says, speaking to the impact of the agreement.

Adding more specificity, Tripathi notes the core interoperability functionalities that people are able to do now, such as sending lab results and the direct sending of email messages from one provider to another. “This ability to query from one system to another was the last core building block, and at least from a technical and network perspective, that is now solved.”

Tripathi further explains that CommonWell was built with an understanding that patient identification is a huge issue that needs to get solved among the different vendors in the clinical sites. And in order to do that properly, there is the need for a central infrastructure. “If everyone were to do that on their own at a robust level it would cost a lot more money compared with polling resources and building a central infrastructure. So in a sense [vendors] outsourced that to CommonWell to build that centralized infrastructure for patient matching and record location,” he says.

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