Free EMR Newsletter Want to receive the latest news on EMR, Meaningful Use, ARRA and Healthcare IT sent straight to your email? Join thousands of healthcare pros who subscribe to EMR and HIPAA for FREE!!

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.

The Bases of Competition in Healthcare – Open vs Closed

Posted on December 15, 2011 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.

I’m sure that many of you have read the always insightful and intriguing Vince Kuraitis and his e-CareManagement blog. If you haven’t you should start doing so now. I just recently came across his post called “Getting an Epic Opinion Off My Chest” about the proprietary solutions and walled gardens that have and are being created in healthcare.

He starts off really strong with the following points:

What are acceptable bases of competition in health care?

My sense is that the distinctions here are not well understood and often go undiscussed, so I’ll quickly get to the point:

It’s OK for care providers to compete on the bases of quality, price, patient satisfaction, and many other factors

It’s NOT OK for care providers to compete on the basis of controlling or limiting access to patient health information. It’s just not right.

He later goes on to assert that in many industries the idea of creating proprietary, non-interoperable technology is an acceptable means of competitive differentiation, but Health Care is different.

Certainly there are people’s lives involved in this and so it’s a different animal all together. If I can’t transfer my music from one MP3 to another it might be unfortunate, but having a loved one die because the right healthcare information was stuck in a closed system is a much more serious issue and one that should require careful consideration.

Outside the ethical reasons to support the benefits of access to patient information, I think there’s a great business case for doing so as well.

One example of the business case I outlined in my post about EMR data liberation. That’s a subtly different situation than what Vince described, but I believe you can make the business case for the benefits of an open system.

For those familiar with SalesForce.com, they could have easily been a few hundred million dollar company on the back of their CRM software. They could have then expanded into other related business verticals as they built off a closed garden. Instead, they opened up their system to allow a lot of other companies to build on their Force platform. As a platform, they’re a multi-billion dollar company.

Why healthcare IT vendors can’t see the value of open is a bit beyond me? I guess some might argue that the GE and Microsoft announcement was a step towards this type of open environment. Based on the analysis I’ve read, I think this is part of their vision for what they’re trying to create.

Whether Microsoft and GE will be able to execute on the vision of the platform is still not clear. However, what I believe is clear is that directionally this is where the market will eventually go. There will be a healthcare platform that does a great job connecting heterogeneous systems.

So, yes, I think that morally the right thing to do is to open your system, but I also think it makes great business sense to do so as well. The closed garden strategy might work well in the short term, but long term open always seems to find a way to win in a much bigger way.