Focused hard work, a game-changing service offering and a shared collaborative spirit across members – that is what has made today’s announcement regarding CommonWell’s nationwide expansion possible.

I am extremely excited by the prospect that CommonWell is well on its way to making a difference for our fragmented health care system.  As the chair of the CommonWell program management committee, I get to engage with our members – all fierce competitors in their day-to-day lives – as they begin to roll-out the CommonWell services nationwide.

This unprecedented initiative has already resulted in more than 60 provider sites live on CommonWell services across 15 states. And we are just getting started.

Collectively, we are looking at enabling the services at least 5,000 provider sites nationwide this year.  That takes my breath away; we are just a few months into our efforts!  With the addition of our newest members, the number of locations that our membership can serve grew to 70% of the inpatient market and 24% of ambulatory.   We are growing fast, and it can’t happen too soon.  CommonWell is desperately needed.

CommonWell has a unique ability to solve some of the real-world problems in health care, even in those communities where they have made some inroads on being better connected with their regional neighbors. Think about how many times the competitive nature of the health care system has gotten in the way of the flow of basic information around your medical history to support better, more coordinated care by your provider.  CommonWell does not require competitive provider organizations to agree on data sharing beyond what is in the CommonWell pass-through provisions in each member contract.   The patient will decide how and with whom his or her data is shared – easily – when they visit the doctor’s office or the hospital.

But then again, this is personal – for all of us.

My mother lives in a major American city with excellent health care organizations in practically every neighborhood.   She is approaching 90 and is quite frail and weak.  She gets her medical care from multiple health systems. Most recently, she has received care from three different hospitals due to a variety of reasons.  There is no information available about my mother from her primary care provider and specialists, who know her best, upon which to make good care decisions in these hospital facilities. With each admission, her medications end up changing quite significantly and may not align with what her regular doctors have prescribed.

One of the three hospitals is a part of a large system of hospitals that has connected most of their affiliates utilizing a repository-based health information exchange (HIE).  The other two are fierce competitors of the first and their data is not included within that HIE. It is frustrating to know that even where an effective technology could be deployed across the city, business boundaries keep my mother’s providers from getting historical information for adequate care coordination.

For my mother, this has been very difficult and potentially life threatening.  For some patients, it’s downright tragic.

With CommonWell in the picture, health data from her other providers could be made available in the native workflow of every provider she visits.  If she goes to the emergency room, the physician can see outside records from a recent specialist visit including a diagnosis and documentation indicating her medications. With this real-time information, perhaps they would be less likely to radically adjust her medications based on a diagnosis inconsistent with a history they have no visibility to.

And perhaps, just perhaps, she could have a better quality of life for the time she has left. Or at least more peace of mind that she is getting the care treatment she needs when she needs it. I know I would sleep a lot better at night.

And that is why I and so many others working with CommonWell do what we do. We are working hard day in and day out to bring our services nationwide so everyone can hopefully enjoy living more and managing their health records less.


Scott Stuewe, director, Cerner Networks, serves as CommonWell’s Program Management Committee chair.