CommonWell Health Alliance – The Healthcare Interoperability Enabler?

Posted on March 4, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The biggest news that will likely come out of HIMSS was the big announcement that was made about the newly formed CommonWell Health Alliance. They’ve also rolled out a website for the new organization.

This was originally billed as a Cerner and McKesson announcement and would be a unique announcement from both the CEO of Cerner and McKesson. Of course, the news of what would be announced was leaked well before the press briefing, so we basically already knew that these two EHR companies were working on interoperability.

In what seemed like some final, last minute deals for some of the companies, 5 different software products were represented on stage at the press event announcement for CommonWell Health Alliance. The press event was quite entertaining as each of the various CEOs took some friendly jabs at each other.

Of course, Jonathan Bush stole the show (which is guaranteed to happen if he’s on stage). I think it was Neal Patterson who called Jonathan Bush the most articulate CEO in healthcare and possibly in any industry. Jonathan does definitely have a way with words.

One of Jonathan’s best quote was in response to a question of whether the CommonWell Health Alliance would just be open to any health IT software system, or whether it was just creating another closed garden. Jonathan replied that “even a vendor of epic proportions” would be welcome in the organization. Don Fluckinger from Search Health IT News, decided to ask directly if Judy from Epic had been asked about the alliance and what she said. They adeptly avoided answering the question specifically and instead said that they’d talked to a lot of EHR vendors and were happy to talk to any and all.

Although, this is still the core question that has yet to be answered by the CommonWell Health Alliance. Will it just be another closed garden (albeit with a few more vendors inside the closed garden)? From what I could gather from the press conference, their intent is to make it available to anyone and everyone. This would even include vendors that don’t do EHR. I think their intent is good.

What I’m not so sure about is whether they’ll put up artificial barriers to entry that stop an innovative startup company from participating. This is what was done with EHR certification when it was started. The price was so high that it made no sense for a small EHR vendor to participate. They could have certified as well, but the cost to become certified was so high that it created an artificial barrier to participation for many EHR vendors. Will similar barriers be put up in the CommonWell Health Alliance? Time will tell.

With this said, I think it is a step forward. The direction of working to share data is the right one. I hope the details don’t ruin the intent and direction they’re heading. Plus, the website even says they’re going to do a pretty lengthy pilot period to implement the interoperability. Let’s hope that pilot period doesn’t keep getting extended and extended.

Finally, I loved when Jonathan Bush explained that there were plenty of other points of competition that he was glad that creating a closed garden won’t be one of them. I hope that vision is really achieved. If so, then it will be a real healthcare interoperability enabler. Although, artificially shutting out innovative healthcare IT companies would make it a healthcare interoperability killer.