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One Small Step for CommonWell, One Giant Leap for Interoperability

by John Voith, Director of Transaction Services

Today, the CommonWell Health Alliance, a non-profit organization that brings together health IT companies to advance health data sharing, has taken the first major step in making those dreams of connectivity a reality. As athenahealth is a founding member of CommonWell, I’m proud to share news that they have entered a new phase of their effort to advance health IT interoperability: CommonWell members can now enter into service agreements that open the door for a broader range of health care providers — and their patients — to benefit from CommonWell’s services.

So what exactly does that mean?

Well, for the 59,000+ providers on the athenahealth network, it means receiving CommonWell interoperability services for free. In fact, in a few states, we’ve already started to “turn on” these services, which include tools to manage patient identity, support consent management, and facilitate better care across disparate EMRs, care settings, and geographies. Since we are a cloud-based service, there are no additional software modules or updates for our clients to download — we simply turn on the functionality and our practices have instant access to CommonWell’s national interoperability services.

The best part about these services is that they’re not disruptive to our providers’ workflow in any way. We believe very strongly in the sanctity of the provider-patient interaction, and making clinical data available unobtrusively, so it does not slow our providers down, was a core tenet when implementing CommonWell within our cloud network.

The few states mentioned above, where providers can begin using free CommonWell services, are Florida, Massachusetts and Washington. We chose these specific locations to pilot the CommonWell services because there are a number of athenahealth practices and CommonWell member’s practices in these states. We’re spending time educating these practices about CommonWell and how to effectively use these services, so we can get feedback that will benefit our entire network of providers. Our goal is to eventually make the CommonWell offering available (at no extra cost) to every single provider on our athenaClinicals EMR.

We could not be prouder of the progress that the Commonwell Health Alliance has made thus far. The Alliance was first announced at HIMSS’ 2013 conference, and just 20 months later, we’ve gone from introduction to formation to pilot to nationwide expansion of services. CommonWell currently has 14 active members, with diverse experience across the care continuum. Membership now represents more than 44% of the acute care EMRs and 21% of the ambulatory care EMRs, plus market leaders in laboratory, retail pharmacy, perinatal care and long-term care.

To all health IT vendors: You have a standing invitation to join the CommonWell Health Alliance, and support the vision that health data should be available to individuals and providers regardless of where care occurs. In fact, we urge you to accept our invitation.

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