The barely 2-year-old CommonWell Health Alliance is coming of age, business wise. It will be demonstrating its adaption of a new interoperability platform at the upcoming Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society convention while also being led by a newly hired executive director.
The not-for-profit alliance, a healthcare information technology industry consortium created to promote electronic health-record system interoperability, was launched—albeit with some controversy—in 2013 with Allscripts Healthcare Solutions, Athenahealth, Cerner Corp., Greenway Medical Technologies and McKesson Corp., along with its connectivity unit RelayHealth, as founding members.
Jitin Asnaani, a former federal health information technology policymaker and health IT industry executive, recently was named its first executive director. Next month at HIMSS in Chicago, it will be demonstrating its adaptation of an interoperability platform called Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR).
“In my mind, FHIR is the sleek new interface, like a sleek new phone,” Asnaani, 34, said. But a new phone won't function without a network, he said. “That's what CommonWell is providing, the network for FHIR messaging for a variety of use cases.”
Asnaani comes to the newly created position from a three-year stint at Athenahealth, where he was director of technology standards and policy for the Watertown, Mass., provider of Web-based EHRs and financial management systems for office-based physicians and, more recently, hospitals.
Before that, Asnaani served at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT at HHS for more than a year, heading its Standards & Interoperability Framework, a collaboration between the ONC, software developers and standards development organizations to harmonize health IT standards and implementation guides to improve systems interoperability.
“Jitin has been instrumental in the CommonWell Health Alliance since its founding,” Rod O'Reilly, president of consortium member McKesson Health Solutions, said in a news release. “In addition, his strategic mindset, and his ability to execute while collaborating with a wide array of stakeholders makes him the perfect executive director for the alliance at this critical juncture.”
The alliance's growth comes as the federal government shifts its healthcare IT focus toward improving EHR interoperability, the alliance's area of focus as well.
The organization now includes developers Sunquest Information Systems and Computer Programs & Systems Inc., or CPSI, as co-founders and 13 other firms as members, according to CommonWell's website.
Still missing among them, however, are two HIT industry heavyweights, Medical Information Technology, or Meditech; and Epic Systems. Meditech and Epic rank No. 1 and No. 2 among vendors of EHRs based on the numbers of their hospital customers that have received federal EHR incentive payments, according to federal data. Epic leads among vendors to physicians and other “eligible professionals,” the data shows.
Funding for CommonWell operations is to come from dues and fees paid by member vendors, the cost of which which can be passed through to provider users. But last fall, Cerner CEO Neal Patterson announced his company would pay CommonWell membership fees for Cerner customers through 2017.
More than 20 providers in six states—Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina, South Carolina and Washington—are using CommonWell's proprietary information exchange services, Asnaani said in an interview. Athenahealth, Cerner, CPSI and Greenway have customers served by the network, which has about 26,000 patients participating, according to CommonWell.
All CommonWell vendors are using the Consolidated Clinical Document Architecture, or C-CDA, a electronic healthcare messaging format created by the healthcare standards development organization Health Level Seven.
The C-CDA is the federally specified standard required to be used by providers' systems for the electronic transfer of patient-care summaries, a meaningful-use criterion under the EHR incentive payment program.
CommonWell also touts its consent management services, but it is still looking into whether or when it might offer a federally developed consent-management technology called Data Segmentation for Privacy, or DS4P, Asnaani said.
DS4P affords patients the ability to either allow or block the flow of document-sized messages as well as discrete data elements drawn from patients' medical records.
DS4P uses metadata tags affixed to electronic messages that could stop, without the patient's consent, the exchange of prescription information or diagnosis codes for sensitive conditions such as depression or alcohol-abuse treatment. The tool is seen as a method to improve interoperability between general healthcare providers and providers of behavioral health services, which operate under different privacy rules.