Six of the biggest names in the EHR space, including Cerner, McKesson, Allscripts, athenahealth, Greenway, and RelayHealth, have announced the launch of the CommonWell Health Alliance, a non-profit collaboration to launch of the CommonWell Health Alliance, a non-profit collaboration to foster interoperability and the seamless transfer of electronic patient data. The collaboration will attempt to institute standards for unique patient identifies in order to ensure that the right record is associated with the proper patient.
While a national patient identification number is the subject of some debate among privacy experts and government officials, health IT leaders and HIE advocates are generally behind the idea. “We’re the only western country that doesn’t have a national health care ID,” Neal Patterson, founder, chairman and CEO of Cerner told Forbes. “We’re digitizing the content of an entire industry by automating the electronic health record. Without a national ID and the ability to create true data that can be safely and securely sent between individuals, we are going to introduce new systemic risk back into the system.”
The CommonWell Alliance will be responsible for defining, promoting, and certifying a national infrastructure with common standards and best practices. It will issue a seal of approval to products that meet the criteria for its infrastructure, hoping to bring industry leaders together in an effort to get a national health information exchange ecosystem off the ground.
“The formation of this alliance takes health care a step closer to broad industry interoperability,” said McKessen CEO John Hammergren. “A national and trusted health information exchange will break down the information silos in health care and should dramatically improve the quality and cost effectiveness of care delivery. Creating data liquidity between all HIT developers is fundamental to improving patient care, enhancing the vitality of the health care industry, and strengthening the long-term health of our nation.”
Although one major player in the field was absent from the announcement – Epic Systems has not signed off on the Alliance, even though it supplies EHR software to many of the nation’s top large hospitals – the collaboration is purposely putting business and profit aside in order to advance the state of technology for the industry as a whole. Patterson called the effort “an obligation”, not a commercial effort.
“If we can rise to the challenge as an industry, we have a chance to deliver a golden era of health care,” he added. “It is a system where consumers not only have a right to their data, but also have the ability to mobilize it in the pursuit of better health. This alliance is about setting aside the admittedly tough politics of this issue to do what is right for the health care consumer.”