Last year, we asked a few of our members to share their predictions for interoperability in 2020. Of course, at the time no one could have predicted the COVID-19 pandemic and its ripple effect inside and outside of health care. This year we are checking back with those members but also hearing from a few new ones as they reflect on 2020 and look ahead to the new year. Here’s what they had to say:

This year has been tragic, challenging, and disappointing for so many of us. In Healthcare IT, we have known for years that the ability to share high-quality information between provider organizations is an essential part of providing quality care for patients. The challenges presented by the COVID-19 global pandemic have demonstrated that data quality and high-fidelity interoperability are also critical to monitoring and understanding a public health crisis. I am optimistic that we are learning from the struggles we face today, and these lessons, though difficult, will inform our perspectives and evolve our thinking in the future. Together we need to embrace initiatives that improve the overall quality of the data we collect, move, and aggregate. We can then leverage that data with confidence to make crucial decisions, whether they are for a single patient or an entire population.

Charlie Harp, CEO, Clinical Architecture

There’s nothing quite like a world-wide pandemic to highlight gaps in the healthcare system, including the exchange of clinical information. Many of the interoperability gaps we already knew about and had been working to close, but over this past year we’ve seen unprecedented acceleration of organizations coming together to improve access to data for public health reporting and case investigation, also simplifying the process for providers to get critical information that they need for patient care through CommonWell and Carequality. We have learned many valuable lessons, so as we move into 2021 and continue to push interoperability forward, I think we will soon be seeing large strides to improving immunization reporting and tracking. Next year will also include a continued federal focus on information blocking. Luckily, those organizations participating in CommonWell and Carequality are already sharing, so we’ll be able to focus our efforts on continued improvements of broad nationwide interoperability and opening up new forms of exchange for providers, payers, patients, public health, and more.

Alan Swenson, VP of Interoperability, Kno2

The strain on the U.S. healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of connecting care providers across organizations, institutions, and care settings. CommonWell serves a vital role in ensuring that patient health information follows them along their care journey, as they transition between care settings. Throughout the ongoing health crisis, we’ve seen overburdened hospitals forced to divert patients to other providers, and many consumers are seeking care wherever they can find it. It’s glaringly obvious that provider access to critical patient information and health history is more important now than ever before. WellSky is excited to partner with CommonWell in its mission to advance care connections in markets throughout the U.S. We know that care occurs on the local level and strengthening connections within local healthcare communities is crucial — especially as providers increasingly need to coordinate care for more people amid scarcities of staff, equipment, and other resources. CommonWell empowers technology vendors and care providers to break down long-standing barriers and build bridges to drive better health outcomes for more people.

Amy Shellhart, Senior Vice President, Solutions Management, WellSky

On March 9, 2020, HHS announced the CMS/ONC Final Interoperability Rules, mandating all Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, CHIP, and QHP issuers on the Federally Facilitated Exchange provide members access to their health information by July 1, 2021. As health plans seek to become compliant and stand up their FHIR-based Patient Access API solutions, many are seizing this opportunity to better engage their members in managing their health through mobile apps and technology devices. The timing couldn’t be better given the current worldwide healthcare crises brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic; not to mention the lasting effect it is expected to have on public health. The concept that providing individuals access to their healthcare information is essential for driving greater levels of patient engagement and satisfaction – and ultimately, better health outcomes – is not a novel one. Patients play an integral role when they serve as active participants in their care coordination; from ensuring safety and accuracy, to managing the complexities of their treatment and wellness protocols. With their unique perspective regarding care history and preferences, coupled with access to their data, they play a critical role in ensuring data accuracy and the identification and closure of information gaps that may exist between providers, hospitals, and other health entities.

Henry Archibong, Associate Vice President, Innovation Solutions, Inovalon

2020, my first year leading CommonWell, was truly unbelievable—in so many ways. It is clear we have passed the tipping point where our members, their customers and patients are engaged at a level where exponential growth is making a compelling difference. We have over 20,000 provider sites sharing data, over a third of the nation’s individuals enrolled with the next third on the horizon. As 2020 reminded us, the future is almost impossible to predict. However, I can tell you the Alliance will be focused on increasing the utilization of new use cases while we double down on what we have accomplished so far. Expect a significant uptick in patient engagement and new members deploying services while we focus on data quality and move into new exchange methods using FHIR to supplement our existing exchange capabilities. Looking forward to continuing the journey!

Paul Wilder, Executive Director, CommonWell Health Alliance

Happy Holidays from all of us at CommonWell!