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Epic CEO Questions Motives of CommonWell Alliance Members

April 4, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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At the monthly meeting of the Health IT Policy Committee, members discussed the CommonWell Health Alliance, the interoperability cooperation between five of the industry’s biggest vendors. Judy Faulkner, CEO of Epic Systems (Verona, Wis.), and a Health IT Policy committee member, questioned the motives of the group during the meeting. Epic was one of the few large vendors not initially invited to join the group.

Faulkner said that her company was scolded for not joining that organization at this year’s conference HIMSS (the annual event of the Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society. However, she says, Epic was not aware of this group, had not been asked to join it, and was not sure what it was all about.

“We wondered what is it? Is it a competitive business or a public service?” Faulkner said. “On the surface it felt like a business. We do know that it is expensive to participate, especially if you’re not one of the originals. And I guess my question is…what components of business will be in it? Will it favor those who started it and using those who started it as a means to be that business? Will it sell the data? Will there be patents

Committee members discussed CommonWell at large during the meeting. The big question was whether it was business-focused or an altruistic initiative. Paul Egerman, a member of the Health IT Policy Committee, said he talked with members of the alliance. The members said they were out to set an example for the nation and create a single-patient identifier. Charles Kennedy, CEO of Accountable Care Solutions for Aetna, expressed concerns over the group’s motivations, wondering if they would “maintain a commitment to the free flow of information.”

The dispute between Epic and this group was highlighted in HCI Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland’s interview with Epic president Carl Dvorak. In the interview, Dvorak said, “We’re less interested in commercial endeavors, and more interested in true moves towards national open standards.”

CommonWell to date is comprised of Cerner, McKesson, Allscripts, Greenway, athenahealth, and RelayHealth. The group's discussion on CommonWell can be found here.

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