The CommonWell Health Alliance and the Carequality framework have solidified their connection, boosting interoperability among members and allowing providers to more easily exchange data with each other even if they're on different electronic health record systems.
CommonWell's new connection to the Carequality framework, which on Friday becomes available to all the groups' participants, promotes interoperability by linking the country's biggest EHR vendors, including Epic Systems Corp., Cerner, Athenahealth, Allscripts, and others. Previously, the connection was available on a limited basis.
Members within each of the groups were already linked. But sharing data between the groups—with Cerner on the CommonWell side and Epic on the Carequality side—was more difficult. This new connection changes that, making it easier for providers whose software is enabled by either CommonWell or Carequality to exchange data.
The connection could help lower costs. "We are hopeful that the increased connectivity will give providers the up-to-date patient health data they need to avoid readmission, duplicative and unnecessary tests and lab work, and the costs ultimately associated with those," CommonWell Executive Director Jitin Asnaani said.
The cumulative effect could be large: Together, the two groups' members account for more than 90% of the acute EHR market and almost 60% of the ambulatory EHR market.
In theory, that means there will be more sharing among providers who use different vendors' EHRs. Some of these vendors already have their own internal networks, such as Epic's Care Everywhere and Athenahealth's network. "The value of same-EMR interoperability has been discounted, but in Epic's case it has been a factor in large portions of the country adopting Epic," according to a 2018 KLAS report.
Epic already uses Carequality, an initiative of the Sequoia Project. Therefore, the CommonWell connection to the framework links all Epic users to CommonWell members, "creating instant value for most areas of the country," according to the report.
Because vendor groups drive this kind of interoperability, the move is a different tactic from what's been trendy in interoperability as of late: letting patients do the legwork. Earlier in 2018, Apple began letting patients of certain providers collect their records on their iPhones. The federal government, meanwhile, announced MyHealthEData, an initiative to give patients more control over their data. In both cases, the theory is that patients will be the agents of interoperability.
The CommonWell and Carequality connection is, on the other hand, puts providers in the driver's seat. "This increased connectivity will serve to empower providers with access to patient health data critical to their healthcare decision-making," Asnaani said in a statement.
But first CommonWell members must actually make the capability available. CommonWell will be encouraging them to do so in 2019, Asnaani said.