A joint effort to provide interoperability among the electronic health records systems of competing vendors is proceeding without a great deal of transparency and openness outside of the participating members.
Three months ago this week, Cerner, McKesson, Allscripts, Greenway and athenahealth—rivals all—announced the CommonWell Health Alliance, a joint effort to provide interoperability among their electronic health records systems and others.
Technology companies are good at announcing such alliances, but customers often never see all the benefits promised. Making different technologies interoperate is difficult, and U.S. companies in particular are predisposed to compete with each other, making attempts at interoperability even tougher.
But since 90 days have passed, I thought it was time to check in with CommonWell to see how things are going, particularly since we haven't really gotten any general progress reports from the group.
As alliances go, it is my opinion that the work being done is being undertaken without a great deal of transparency and openness outside of the alliance members.
To its credit, CommonWell offered me time with two Cerner executives who addressed some of the recent issues brought forth by Epic founder/CEO and CommonWell skeptic Judy Faulkner. In recent comments at the Health IT Policy Committee, committee member Faulkner questioned whether CommonWell would be offering patient data for sale, or if it was trying to assemble a patent portfolio, both of which would definitely be unwelcome developments.
"We're very explicit that we will not use the data for any purpose other than to deliver the services of CommonWell," says David McCallie, senior vice president for medical informatics at Cerner. "There will be no data resale. We're not going to de-identify the data and do anything with it. We're not going to sell it in an identified form, and that's been clear from day one."