Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few of the top frequently asked questions about CommonWell Health Alliance. If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact us.

General Information

What is CommonWell Health Alliance?

CommonWell is a not-for-profit trade association dedicated to achieving cross-vendor interoperability that assures provider access to health data regardless of where care occurs. Members believe that provider access to this data must be built into health IT at a reasonable cost for use by a broad range of health care providers and the people they serve.

Why is this important?

Cross-vendor interoperability is necessary to improve health care delivery and outcomes. Without ubiquitous interoperability, it is impossible to coordinate care across the continuum or geographic regions. CommonWell members are using their diverse, collective experience to break down the barriers that have stood in the way of efficient data exchange. Our members are committed to building the capability to exchange health data into their software, enabling providers to work seamlessly within their existing workflow.

What progress has CommonWell made since its foundation?

In less than four years, CommonWell went from having seven Founding Members in 2013 to 50+ and growing. CommonWell services initially rolled out in four states less than two years after our foundation. In just three years, we have five member companies actively deploying the services nationwide. As of June 2016, more than 4,700 provider sites in all 50 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico have gone live with CommonWell services.

Where are CommonWell services being used?

CommonWell members have rolled out services at provider sites in all 50 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico. For a list of where our services are live or soon to be live, visit our Provider page to see a map with more detail.

How does CommonWell work with other interoperability efforts?

We believe our efforts are complementary to many of the other interoperability efforts that exist today. CommonWell supports and works with other health IT initiatives, such as the HIMSS organization, DirectTrust, eHealth Initiative, NATE, Center4MI, The Sequoia Project, The Argonaut Project and HL7 — all of which are contributing to the enhancement of true interoperability in unique and valuable ways. CommonWell is primarily focused on nationwide deployment of a cross-vendor interoperability infrastructure that is patient-centered.

Provider Participation & Benefits

What are the benefits to providers using CommonWell services?

  • Improved access — Interoperability between electronic health record (EHR) systems provides nationwide access to relevant patient data between systems from different vendors
  • Coordinated patient care — As people move between hospitals, doctors and other providers, their secure, consolidated care histories follow them, allowing for coordinated, improved care
  • Better decision making — Providers can view the total picture of a patient’s current and historical care, enabling them to make comprehensive, informed care decisions
  • Reduced overall costs — Centralized patient records retrieved through a single, universal interface provide the potential to help lower the costs of EHR access and implementation

If the provider’s EHR developer is participating, how can that provider begin to benefit from Alliance members’ services?

Contact your EHR vendor representative to be notified when CommonWell services will be available. Providers contract directly with health IT suppliers for the EHRs and other health technology services to ensure accurate patient data collection and improved patient outcomes.

What if the provider works with more than one member of the Alliance?

We recommend connecting with both member companies. Once incorporated within a member company’s software, CommonWell services will work in conjunction with all CommonWell members’ connected products.

How can people find out if their provider uses CommonWell services?

Patients should ask their health care provider to find out if their health IT supplier is a member of CommonWell. You may also look on the Provider page for a list of many of the providers currently using or soon-to-be using CommonWell Services.

CommonWell Services and Technology

What services does CommonWell Health Alliance provide?

CommonWell services are essential to the exchange of health data across the care continuum.

  • Person Enrollment — Enable each individual to be registered and uniquely identified in the CommonWell network
  • Record Location — Create a “virtual table of contents” that specifies the available locations for patient information
  • Patient Identification and Linking — Link each individual’s clinical records across the care continuum
  • Data Query and Retrieval — Enable caregivers to search, potentially select and receive needed data across a trusted network

For more detailed information on CommonWell services, visit our Service Specifications page.

What are the service profiles that CommonWell Health Alliance utilizes?

CommonWell leverages existing standards that members use to enable scalable, secure and reliable interoperability. Our service provider, RelayHealth, has built the services around the widely adopted IHE standards (e.g., PIX for patient identity, HL7 FHIR standard with RESTFUL protocols for record location and XCA and XDS.b for locating and retrieving patient data). Additionally, CommonWell is one of the first implementers of the FHIR standard for patient identification services. As with any new standard, it is constantly evolving and CommonWell is working on its use of the FHIR standard to meet DSTU2 requirements.

Does CommonWell Health Alliance maintain a central copy of people’s clinical records?

No, CommonWell does not maintain a central copy of clinical records. That data remains within the provider HIT system where it was collected. CommonWell services will provide identification and matching that facilitate trusted data sharing among member systems.

How are CommonWell services different than those offered by other vendors and groups?

CommonWell Health Alliance was the first vendor-led, HIT interoperability initiative of its kind. CommonWell members build the capability to exchange health data into their software, enabling providers to work within their existing workflow. From a solution-specific perspective, CommonWell services focus on solving the foundational needs of patient linking and matching, as well as consent necessary to enable targeted query of data at national scale. Additionally, CommonWell offers a working, functioning record locator service, allowing providers to find records associated with a patient,at more locations where the care is delivered. No single vendor can solve industry-wide interoperability on its own, which is why CommonWell relies on its diverse membership across the care continuum to improve cross-vendor interoperability nationwide.

Does CommonWell sell data?

CommonWell never has and never will sell any health data. Neither CommonWell nor its service provider is allowed to sell data that is transmitted with the CommonWell services.

What type of health data is exchanged?

Currently, the type of data that is exchanged via CommonWell services are Consolidated-Clinical Document Architectures (CCDA). CommonWell also has a subcommittee dedicated to experimenting with the use of Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) to share discreet data elements and enhance the type of patient data that members are currently able to exchange.


How does an HIT vendor learn more about joining CommonWell Health Alliance?

For more information about joining CommonWell, contact us via our Membership Application form or visit our Membership Information page. We also recommend reviewing our Bylaws and our Membership Agreement form.

Can non-vendors join CommonWell (i.e., payer, health system, other alliance, etc.)?

CommonWell is open to members of the health IT community and others who share the same vision for interoperability. Two types of memberships are available for organizations, including Contributor and General Membership. Details on membership levels and fees are available on the CommonWell Membership Information page.

What are the health IT vendor and customer benefits of participation in CommonWell?

Participating vendors build the capability to exchange health data into their software, allowing providers to work within their existing workflow for expeditious, cost-efficient implementation of CommonWell services. This incorporation will move them towards true, nationwide interoperability with their provider customers and the people they serve. Additionally, participation allows vendors to deliver interoperability to their customers.