Like many buzz words, health care “interoperability” can have multiple meanings. For me, it’s quite simple – it’s about making our personal consumer health care interactions more like other seamless, real-time, easy experiences we have in our life.

The latest video from CommonWell Health Alliance compares the CommonWell Services’ journey to create nationwide interoperability to the search engine evolution in improving the usability of the internet. It’s exciting to see where we are headed – and made me reflect on my own experiences with health information exchange.

I recently got a personal glimpse into the current status quo when I needed to have my medical information from three different facilities shared with a new specialist in a different state. I had three different experiences:

  • Facility #1: I emailed an electronic form with the request and my records were sent electronically within two days, but I was charged $25.
  • Facility #2: After both emailing and faxing in my request, I was informed that sharing my records would take 7-10 days. Of course, a patient’s health care needs don’t grind to a halt while records are being transferred, and I needed to have lab work done in the week after I requested the records. Therefore, these important lab results were left out of the files provided to my new specialist.
  • Facility #3: The practice required a fax request and after a week’s time, they sent my records via CD in the mail to my new specialist free of charge.

In today’s health IT environment, my health information sits in many different places and can be hard to find. I spent hours trying to get my information shared from three facilities and it took anywhere from two days to over three weeks to complete the transfer of medical information. Plus, for some, there was a fee!  My experience is sadly quite common and demonstrates the amount of work left to be done to improve interoperability and communication among patients and providers. Patients and providers deserve to have easier access to the information in order to make better care decisions.

Now let’s envision a world where all of my providers have access to CommonWell Services – the experience would be quite different. The day of my appointment, instead of weeks in advance, my new specialist in a new state could ask me to enroll in CommonWell. As part of that enrollment process, CommonWell’s record locator service acts just like a search engine by asking the network to identify locations where I may have been seen – including local or remote providers, nationwide. The registration clerk would ask me to confirm (or deny) the locations where I’ve been seen.

Once these links are confirmed between me and the previous providers, my new doctors could efficiently discover where my health information resides. Immediately, my new specialist could query the CommonWell system to find my data. CommonWell would broker out that request to all my linked locations, and then return a list of available clinical data. My specialist would then be able to request to retrieve the information he needs from that list.

In this case, my records are received by my out-of-state specialist on the same day. No fee, no hassle, no missed lab results. All of my health care is exchanged in a standardized, scalable, secure environment where only trusted systems are permitted to execute requests against the system.

I continue to be excited by CommonWell’s innovative ‘search engine’ approach and I’d like to share this video with you in hopes you share it with others. It truly illustrates how CommonWell can change the way health information is accessed by our doctors to help save time and hassle for all of us involved.