CommonWell Health Alliance to Launch Initial Interoperability Service Offerings in Illinois, North Carolina and South Carolina

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — CommonWell Health Alliance (the “Alliance”) – the health information technology (HIT) vendor-led interoperability effort – announced today that Chicago, Illinois; Elkin and Henderson, North Carolina; and Columbia, South Carolina have been selected as participating regions for its first rollout of CommonWell’s interoperability services. Additional provider sites and geographies will be announced in the coming months.

Some of the provider sites involved in this effort include Lake Shore Obstetrics & Gynecology (Chicago, IL), Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital (Elkin, NC), Maria Parham Medical Center (Henderson, NC), Midlands Orthopaedics (Columbia, SC), and Palmetto Health (Columbia, SC). The goal of this program is to connect providers from across the health care continuum to exchange health data between disparate care settings – a critical component to improving care efficiency, quality, and outcomes.

“Our work in these regions is an important step in the Alliance’s commitment toward making patient data available to both patients and providers, regardless of where care is administered,” said Jeremy Delinsky, chairman of the board for the CommonWell Health Alliance and chief technology officer, athenahealth. “Regions within Illinois, North Carolina and South Carolina were chosen because they provide a good footprint of the Alliance’s founding member companies’ health IT systems, along with a strong desire among clients to make interoperability a reality. We have the right players on board, and we’re eager and committed to improve care coordination through advancing data liquidity.”

The Alliance’s seven founding members – Allscripts, athenahealth, Cerner, CPSI, Greenway, McKesson and Sunquest along with RelayHealth, the service provider for the effort – represent 42 percent of the acute and 23 percent of the ambulatory EHR market[1].  The Alliance intends for all member companies to participate in the initial launch, bringing their expertise in working across acute care, ambulatory, rural and laboratory providers.

Scheduled to start at the beginning of 2014, the initial launch provides an opportunity for the Alliance to bring to production its vision of cross-vendor data liquidity, demonstrating that the vendor members will be able to efficiently and accurately share patient medical information across IT systems. The Alliance members, RelayHealth and the participating provider sites will be validating a unique patient-centric identity and matching approach, as well as a consent-driven record sharing and retrieval process across care facilities. Specifically, the initial participating providers will be supporting the launch by enrolling patients into the service and managing patient consent protocol; identifying whether other provider participants have data for a patient that is enrolled in the network when the patient is at their setting of care; and transmitting data to another provider that has consent to view data on that enrolled patient.

For participating providers, these interoperability services will improve the speed and efficiency with which they are able to access the patients’ data, regardless of which HIT system other providers are using. Patients will be better empowered to control access to their data through an opt in process and to facilitate the linking of their records by confirming matches and by providing additional information, such as a driver’s license, to further validate their identity. Ultimately, the Alliance’s vision and mission are to enable patients to be at the center of their health care with new tools to better manage who can access their medical history and when.

Chicago, Illinois
Chicago is saturated by the presence of many health systems, practices and health IT systems. The initial launch will focus on multiple ambulatory practices using a cross section of health IT systems, including Chicago Lake Shore Medical Associates, a Division of Northwestern Memorial Faculty Foundation; and Lake Shore Obstetrics & Gynecology.  While initially focused on ambulatory practices, the Alliance recognizes the great potential to expand to a variety of health care systems and practices in the Chicago metropolitan area over time.

“The blueprint for delivering high-quality and high-value health care does not just encourage interoperability, it requires it,” said Phyllis Wright, practice manager at Lake Shore Obstetrics & Gynecology. “As an academic and hospital-affiliated practice, we are constantly pursuing best practices within coordinated care, so we are excited to join CommonWell’s approach toward secure and patient-friendly data structures contributing to the maturity of information exchange across care settings.”

Elkin and Henderson, North Carolina
In North Carolina, the launch will focus on exchanging patient data between acute and ambulatory practices. Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital (HCMH) and Hugh Chatham Family Medicine will be the participants in Elkin, while Maria Parham Medical Center and Premier Women’s Health Professionals will be the participants in Henderson. In North  Carolina, the launch enables the sharing of patient data across rural settings and county lines, as these patients often drive far to receive care.

“Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital is pleased to be included in CommonWell Health Alliance’s launch,” said Lee Powe, chief information officer at HCMH. “The sharing of patient data is critical to improving health care quality and patient outcomes, as well as reducing costs to patients, providers and payors. HCMH believes participation in this effort supports our Vision and Mission.”

Randy Williams, Director of Information Technology at Maria Parham Medical Center, said, “Even though there have been significant advancements in health care integration or collaboration, there remains a technological barrier to delivering higher quality care to patients; that’s the inability to universally exchange health data between providers at different care settings. We are looking forward to working with CommonWell and the other providers to refine the technologies that bring us closer to true interoperability.”

Columbia, South Carolina
CommonWell is enhancing the existing Health Information Exchange (HIE) experience for customers in the Columbia, SC region by enabling Palmetto Health, an acute care facility; and Midlands Orthopaedics and Capital City OBGYN ambulatory practices to exchange patient data without having to navigate outside of their native electronic health record system.

“We know firsthand how the lack of seamless data flow between clinicians can be a challenge in delivering excellent care.  Palmetto Health has patients that interact with a number of different providers,” said Tripp Jennings, M.D., system vice president, medical informatics officer of Palmetto Health. “We are pleased to be part of this interoperability effort with CommonWell because breaking down health data silos and having patient health data available to providers, no matter the setting of care, will improve quality and the patient experience.”

“We pride ourselves on offering comprehensive care. Unfortunately, as soon as that care involves providers in other settings, a truly integrated treatment record is difficult to access, let alone maintain,” said AnnMargaret McCraw, CEO, Midlands Orthopaedics, PA. “Despite tremendous advances in electronic health records, communication among diverse systems is poor. We’ve signed up for CommonWell because we believe that achieving true interoperability among EHRs is fundamental to improving healthcare.”

CommonWell Health Alliance looks to expand upon this initial set of participants and anticipates announcing preliminary results from this initial service launch at the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Annual Conference & Exhibition to be held in February 2014. This effort also will inform how to extend this program to additional geographies in 2014, enabling the Alliance to continue refining its services toward nationwide interoperability.

About CommonWell Health Alliance
CommonWell Health Alliance is a trade association of health IT companies working together to create universal access to health care data. The Alliance is open to all health information technology providers who are committed to making patient’s data available to themselves and providers regardless of where care occurs. Alliance members support the belief that provider access to this data must be built into health information technologies at a reasonable cost for use by a broad range of health care providers and the populations and people they serve.

The members of CommonWell Health Alliance invite all health IT suppliers to join them in working together to provide seamless, trusted access to health information, in support of better, more cost-effective care for their patients and communities. To learn more about the CommonWell Health Alliance, please visit www.commonwellalliance.org, and read CommonWell Community blog. Also follow CommonWell on Twitter at @CommonWell, join them on the Alliance’s LinkedIn page, and like the Alliance’s Facebook page.

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