Five years ago, five health IT leaders from competing companies stood on a stage during HIMSS13 and announced they were coming together to breakdown the silos of health data exchange. I remember standing in that New Orleans hotel ballroom, proud of what my industry was doing and excited for what was about to come. Many openly questioned the likelihood of success and some even questioned the motives of the participants. Many others, myself included, knew it was just what the industry needed to help jumpstart our nation in improving the delivery of health care.

When we launched CommonWell Health Alliance, we knew we needed to keep the initial launch focused, starting with allowing disparate EHRs to connect across and amongst acute and ambulatory practices. And our membership during our first year reflected that, primarily made up of acute and ambulatory EHR companies. But that initial focus was never our long-term vision.

Today, we have almost 80 members representing more than 20 settings of care. At HIMSS18 alone, we have 35 members participating, including market leaders and technology innovators in post-acute care, patient-facing applications, imaging, population health, emergency services, patient identification and more.

With their engagement, we have seen CommonWell services, provider access and patient access expand and benefit from their collective expertise. That is the beauty of diversity. We learn from each other. We make each other’s offering stronger. We unite our provider communities. We help empower patients.

And to think, all of this came from a group of “competitors.”

Twice a year, I host a New Member Welcome session on the front end of our in-person Alliance meetings. There, I often reference the phrase “leave your badge at the door,” meaning that when we are working on CommonWell efforts, we are working towards a common cause, and that is our priority. It is part of our culture; it is part of our success.

You can see that in action for yourself.

If you are attending HIMSS18 in Last Vegas next month, stop by the Nationwide Care Transitions use case area in the Interoperability Showcase. My company, along with six of our “best friends,” will be there demonstrating our solutions live. Or, we encourage you to stop by any of our member booths and ask them what they are working on in the interoperability space.

What a difference five years makes. I can only imagine what the next five years have in store for our industry, and for our Alliance.

Nick Knowlton, vice president of Strategic Initiatives, Brightree, first became involved with CommonWell Health Alliance through his role at Greenway Health. He continues that work now at Brightree, as well, and has served as the CommonWell Membership Chair for the last four years.