A little over six years ago, a group of EHR vendors came together to conceive of a unique collaborative effort with a single Vision in mind: that care data should follow the individual, regardless of where care has occurred – regardless of care setting, regardless of HIT platform, regardless of the barriers that have evolved as a consequence of our dysfunctional healthcare economy. As technologists, we had a chance to be enablers of meaningful change, and our bold idea was simply to seize it.
Despite the engineering roots of many of our Founders (including yours truly), to get where we wanted we knew we had to build the demand ahead of the capability – after all, a community-driven interoperability initiative is of limited value without a robust community supporting it and adopting it. So, for nearly two years, while we internally focused on building and conducting initial deployments of the shared services that would become the cornerstones of the CommonWell network, our public-facing activity was spearheaded by marketing and membership initiatives focused on getting broad public buy-in to the Vision. The actual exchange numbers were paltry – a few thousand documents for a few thousand patients – but the potential was there, the opportunity to do big game-changing things was there… all we needed was for people to believe in it. We were at the beginning of the beginning.
Now, six years later, we’re exchanging tens of millions of patient charts for tens of millions of unique individuals across 50 states and U.S. territories. Our growth trajectory is a hockey-stick chart. Real clinicians and patients are sharing real stories about how care was impacted or even lives saved by access to the data. In short: great growth trajectory, positive impact to health care, more empowered clinicians and patients. So “Mission Accomplished”, right? Nope. Until we have achieved universal record location for treatment and patient access – in conjunction with other associations, networks and government agencies, the Vision will still be out ahead of us.
That being said, today is indeed significant. Unbeknownst to the world at large, we have been on a quest to tip CommonWell into the next phase, towards a pathway to ubiquitous interoperability nationwide. Just over six months ago, we went live with our connection to Carequality, enabling us to connect to a community anchored by a group of key technology organizations outside of CommonWell. Earlier this year, we announced our CommonWell Connector program, enabling a variety of interoperability vendors to bring CommonWell Services to the long tail of EHRs and provider organizations. One month ago, the second version of TEFCA was announced by ONC, building on the capabilities espoused by CommonWell to describe Qualified Health Information Networks (QHINs) that will serve as the backbone of nationwide health data exchange over the coming years – and CommonWell is planning to serve as one of the leading QHINs.
And then, significantly, yesterday CommonWell completed a 10-month public Service Provider selection process by agreeing to procure our Core Services from Change Healthcare for another six years in a deal that allows us to sustainably build a more robust staff to support the Alliance while simultaneously dropping the cost of participation in the CommonWell network by more than 60 percent for all the HIT vendors who are connecting to it. The icing on the cake is that the participation costs will include our core RLS-based broadcast query/retrieve services as it always has, but will also include Event Notifications (coming soon), Data Monitoring (coming soon), AND access to Carequality (already generally available) … all in one efficient and economic bundle.
Stepping back, our goal has always been to make participation in CommonWell a no-brainer for HIT vendors and clinical provider organizations across the ecosystem. Of course, there is still real work to do to execute on the Vision, and as we gain momentum, there will also be so many more opportunities to be seized as we continue being enablers of change of our health care economy.
The bottom line is that after the last six-plus months of concentrated effort and the last SIX YEARS of tireless dedication, we are taking a big leap towards our Vision, injecting additional momentum into our accelerating growth. Today, we completed a game-changing step that finally pushes CommonWell into the next phase of its journey, towards ubiquitous interoperability nationwide.
Today, we have reached the End of the Beginning.