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Integration & Interoperability News

Georgia Practice Enables Data Exchange via CommonWell

“CommonWell is a national vehicle rather than a local health information exchange where you’re limited to just participate locally. That’s an important reason why we liked it."

By Frank Irving

- Greenway Health announced last week that customers of its Prime Suite integrated EHR and practice management system could use the health data exchange capabilities of the CommonWell Health Alliance at no cost. That plan is already in action at The Veranda, a multi-specialty medical practice based in Albany, Ga., which is using CommonWell services combined with Prime Suite and other solutions in the course of its day-to-day activities as a patient-centered medical home (PCMH).

Greenway is a founding member of CommonWell, through which participating members commit to building interoperability into their software so that healthcare providers can use a trusted network for data exchange while maintaining their existing workflow. CommonWell services facilitate clinical connectivity through patient identification and linking, record location, patient consent management and data access.

Nancy Brown, practice administrator at The Veranda, tells HealthITInteroperability.com that the practice — a Prime Suite user since 2004 — signed up in September 2015 to be a beta site for the CommonWell program. She said the practice was interested in getting involved because “CommonWell is a national vehicle rather than a local health information exchange where you’re limited to just participate locally. That’s an important reason why we liked it. Today so many people are mobile in their work — and in their referral patterns."

The Veranda can enter a query for a specific patient and then pull in the desired information from other facilities, as long as they use an EHR system also participating in CommonWell.

The practice clears its patients for being searchable through a consent form on the front end. “The form asks, ‘Do you agree that your information will be made available on the CommonWell exchange for clinical use?’ We have not had any negative responses to that,” explained Brown.

“It’s been very easy to go out and query a patient, verify that we have the correct patient, and then bring that information into our system through the import document, and it becomes immediately available. We have not seen a learning curve on training for that capability,” she added.

The Veranda was recognized as a PCMH Level 3 in March 2015 and is now pursuing recognition as a specialty practice PCMH for endocrinology and obstetrics/gynecology. Brown said the CommonWell capabilities have helped the practice stay focused on care coordination and referral management, which are core PCMH functions.

“In the past, we were subject to the other practice saying, ‘Yes, we’re going to send the information right over to you,’” — but that wouldn’t always happen, according to Brown. “Our care coordinator would realize that we hadn’t gotten a consultation report or CCD document back on a certain patient, and then would have to pick up the phone, call somebody, and then spend man-hours to find out the status. Then, when the information was received, we’d have to sync it to other important documents and route it to the physician.” She added, “[CommonWell]” really streamlines the process from a resources standpoint and it also makes the information more readily available throughout the day rather than just the period when someone is assigned to work on the other side of the practice.”

Brown noted that The Veranda looks forward to expanding the process beyond summary-of-care documents to facilitate acquisition of other patient information such as diagnostic studies as well as imaging and laboratory results. “The ability to communicate is already a reality. It’s just a matter of making the functionality work,” she concluded.

Greenway CEO Tee Green said in a public statement that the CommonWell partnership enables “secure data flow that leads to connected care and, ultimately, better health outcomes. The Alliance gives our customers and other participants a more secure way to gain a more comprehensive view of the patient’s health history, regardless of the point of care or what information system was used. This will enable clinicians to make the most informed decisions possible.”