The CommonWell Health Alliance is finally ready to start bringing patients into the interoperability equation. Now, it’s just a matter of health IT vendors being ready to provide patients with their data and of patients knowing to ask for access.
CommonWell, an alliance of major vendors, on Tuesday said that eight of its members have committed to extend interoperability services to individual patients, not just hospitals and medical practices. It may be a while until data sharing actually happens on a wide scale, though.
The Boston-based alliance said that personal health records vendors Integrated Data Services and startup MediPortal will, before the end of the year, be offering patients the opportunity to self-enroll in CommonWell, view their health data online and link their records to their healthcare providers. Integrated Data Services, which also offers telemedicine services, expects to be live by early fall.
Whether patients will ever flock to untethered PHRs is a lingering question, of course.
Six other vendors of electronic health records and connectivity services — Aprima Medical Software, athenahealth, Cerner, Evident, Modernizing Medicine and McKesson’s RelayHealth — are more likely to launch CommonWell for patients in 2017, according to CommonWell Executive Director Jitin Asnaani. “They haven’t put a date on it yet,” Asnaani said.
This comes just a week after the Carequality health information exchange collaborative — including many of the same companies as CommonWell — announced that data has started flowing between healthcare providers committed to using the Carequality Interoperability Framework.
CommonWell participants and supporters are optimistic. “It’s a big step forward,” said Aaron Seib, CEO of National Association for Trusted Exchange, a not-for-profit membership organization that seeks to advance health information exchange. “They didn’t get all 100 yards, but they did get the first down,” said Seib, invoking a football analogy.
It is a long field, though. Sadly, the CommonWell announcement also comes on the heels of the Aug. 13 death of patient self-advocate Jess Jacobs, who struggled for years to get a handle on her own medical records, underscoring how far the industry still has to go.
“We’ve spent [years] talking about making patients the center of the care around them,” Seib said. “Until there’s information parity, where I have the same data you have, there’s no patient-centeredness.”
Seib does like the fact that the CommonWell patient accessibility gives people another choice, one he hopes people will see as simplifying the process. “When you’re a consumer trying to get your information, it isn’t easy choosing the right door to go through,” he said.
Asnaani said that there is pent-up demand for an easier way to deliver records and other medical data to patients.
“Providers have been asking for this [service] for a long time,” he said. “I think providers are tired of having to deal with a lot of reactive requests for patients to get their data,” he said.