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Mar 12 2013   12:17PM GMT

CommonWell: Good three-fourths of an effort!



Posted by: AllinHIT
Cerner, CommonWell, Epic, HIE, HIMSS, HIMSS13, interoperability, McCesson

Last week, thousands of us gathered in New Orleans to attend HIMSS13! HIMSS is a great barometer for yearly concerns, challenges, and goals in health IT, and this year was no different.  I found myself engaging in discussions, attending seminars, and reading the daily HIMSS paper on interoperability, HIEs, mHealth and patient engagement.

What really dominated discussion, however was not Health IT, but the very interesting announcements on new products, acquisitions and partnerships. This year was no disappointment with the announcement of a new, non-profit entity called CommonWell Health Alliance.

This organization was created by five EHR vendors for the purpose of exchanging PHI on a cross-platform basis.  The five vendors, Cerner, McKesson, Greenway, AthenaHealth and Allscripts, said all the right things at their press conference.  John Hammergren, CEO of McKesson, stated, “This interoperability mission is really imperative for us. We know that it’s  going to take significant work.”

Cerner’s CEO, Neal Patterson, stated, “We really need the entire industry being here … to create a solution to this  problem (interoperability).”

These are great words to our industry!  Finally, big vendors will focus on integrating separate silos of information.  We know this is a critical step in reducing healthcare cost (i.e. duplication of tests), enhancing patient care (immediate access to critical PHI like allergies), and analytics (Big Data across platforms, makes it bigger!).

Although some were excited about the CommonWell announcement, others wondered loudly, “Where is Epic?”  Why would you not ask the fastest growing enterprise EHR, a 1.5 billion dollar enterprise, not to join your efforts?  I also wonder if Siemens, another player in the industry, was asked to join these efforts?  Together, Siemens and Epic represent close to a quarter of the market!  When asked about this, McKesson’s CEO stated that this alliance is open to any vendor. As some suspected, Judy Faulkner, Epic’s CEO, confirmed that her organization was not asked to join.  Hence, Epic executives believe this alliance is a marketing ploy designed to stop the momentum and growth of Epic.  I don’t know if that is true or not.  However, Epic not being asked to join prior to HIMSS makes one wonder.  Some say Epic would not have joined anyway, feeling their well-integrated CareEverywhere feature has an advantage in the marketplace (being Epic certified, I am trying not to be biased).  However, by not asking Epic and Siemens, we will never know if there is validity to those opinions.

What I think we all know is the CommonWell sandbox is missing a couple large “players.”  So large, in fact, those great words we heard in the press release were diminished to some. I say, it’s still a good three fourths of an effort. Better than nothing!

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