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CommonWell grows, despite Epic absence

Despite the continued absence of health IT’s biggest name, the CommonWell Health Alliance, a vendor-backed interoperability group, keeps growing.

EHR giant Epic Systems Corp. is the notable non-participant, even defending its decision to stay out of CommonWell in a recent Senate hearing, but the nonprofit group announced four new members have joined, bringing the general membership count to 13.

The new corporate members are Caremerge, a cloud care coordination company, and T-System Inc., which specializes in emergency department and urgent care IT documentation.

Also signing up were two health information exchanges (HIE), Michigan Health Information Network Shared Services and the Texas Health Services Authority.

General members pay lower subscription dues than contributor members, a category that includes the seven founding members: Epic competitors Allscripts Healthcare Solutions, Inc., athenahealth, Inc., Cerner Corp. and McKesson Corp., and Evident, a subsidiary of EHR vendor CPSI (Computer Programs and Systems, Inc.), Greenway Healthcare and Sunquest Information Systems, Inc.

There are nine other contributor members.

In a blog, Nick Knowlton, chairman of CommonWell’s Membership Committee and vice president of business development for Brightree LLC, said the new members broaden the range of CommonWell participants to include not only vendors, but also other healthcare organizations, such as HIEs.

While most of Epic’s peers are now part of CommonWell, the Verona, Wisc.-based EHR market leader has resisted signing up. During a March hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Peter DeVault, Epic’s director of interoperability, defended the company’s stance when  a senator asked why Epic isn’t part of CommonWell, Healthcare IT News reported.

DeVault said Epic finds the annual subscription and membership fees excessive (Epic would have to pay more than $1.25 million annually, based on its size), and also doesn’t want to sign the required non-disclosure agreement.

“The lack of transparency didn’t sit well with us,” DeVault said, according to Healthcare IT News.

However, Epic is participating with some of its biggest competitors, including Cerner and athenahealth, in HL7 International’s Argonaut Project to develop the FHIR (Fast Health Interoperability Resources) standard.

Among the services CommonWell offers members are: patient identification and matching; record location and retrieval; patient access, privacy and consent management; and trusted data access.

CommonWell’s service provider is RelayHealth, a McKesson subsidiary.