The two initiatives working to advance health IT interoperability through standardized health data exchange have signed an important agreement to expand the reach of each of their respective networks.
The agreement includes three important provisions.
First, CommonWell Health Alliance agrees to implement the Carequality Interoperability Framework, which comprise legal terms, policy requirements, technical specifications and governance processes. Upon implementation, CommonWell subscribers will be able to perform directed queries to access health data in Carequality-enabled systems, which includes Epic Systems.
Second, Carequality and CommonWell will develop a Carequality-compliant version of the latter’s record locator service to be made available to users of Carequality-equipped health IT systems. The former already includes access to the Surescripts National Record Locator Service, which is not mentioned as part of the agreement as a quid pro quo.
Third, CommonWell and Carequality’s parent organization, The Sequoia Project, will undertake these initial interoperability and health data exchange activities as well as pursue additional opportunities for collaboration.
“Collaboration and inclusion are the keys to success in health data sharing and interoperability,” Carequality Director Dave Cassel said in Tuesday statement.
“The Carequality Interoperability Framework was developed by a group of diverse healthcare stakeholders, including members of CommonWell, determined to establish health data sharing as the standard of care by powering connectivity between and among health data networks of all types,” he continued. “With the promise of heath data sharing across Carequality’s participating networks and the CommonWell network, we continue to advance toward that goal. It’s a win-win-win for patients, providers, and their networks.”
According to the announcement, the partnership puts their health data exchange services in the hands of more than 90 percent and roughly 60 percent of the of the acute and ambulatory care EHR markets, respectively.
“Our vision has always been for a patient’s health data to follow him/her regardless of where care occurs, and in turn give providers and caregivers increased access to critical health data when and where it is needed,” added CommonWell Executive Director Jitin Asnaani. “We believe this connectivity between CommonWell and Carequality will continue to move the country forward on its path to achieving nationwide data exchange by bringing together such a sizeable majority of providers and patients that there will be no turning back for American health care.”
In its earliest form, the collaboration will support the requesting and retrieval of electronic medical records among Carequality and CommonWell providers.
In October, The Sequoia Project stated that Carequality-enabled information sharing took place at more than 11,000 clinics and 500 hospitals and the number of care documents shared had eclipsed more than 50,000 — significant progress considering that the Carequality Interoperability Framework was released a year ago.
Not stated in the announcement but worth noting, the Carequality-CommonWell collaboration bridges an EHR interoperability gap between Epic EHR technology and those of “rival” EHR vendors. Back in March 2015, Epic's Director of Interoperability Peter DeVault told Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions the rationale behind the EHR company’s decision not to join CommonWell and rather to opt for Carequality participation alone.
"Carequality is meant to be that fabric that connects all of the networks together, so you have health information exchanges, you've got the Care Everywhere network, you will eventually have CommonWell. Carequality then will be the fabric that stitches all of that together,” he explained.
Epic wanted CommonWell to join Carequality; CommonWell participants such as Cerner and athenahealth called on Epic to join CommonWell. Of the three companies, only athenahealth can count itself as members of both.
Today’s announcement does not provide details about a timeline for enabling these changes to both networks.