CommonWell Health Alliance adds first patient portals, commits to direct patient access

By Jonah Comstock
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The CommonWell Health Alliance, a trade association of health IT companies that has been working for the last three years to establish data interoperability between its members’ technologies, announced today that a new healthcare stakeholder will now be able to access a patient’s data via CommonWell: the patients themselves.

“We started with clinics and hospitals. Now we’re live in rehabilitation centers, skilled nursing facilities, and home health facilities,” Jitin Asnaani, executive director of the CommonWell Health Alliance, told MobiHealthNews. “Today’s big announcement was not just that these caregivers could have access, but we want the patients themselves to have access to their data. So now some of our members who have patient-facing applications and software such as PHRs, EHR patient portals, or patient apps, we’re allowing those providers to have access to these same services.”

Asnaani said that putting data in the hands of patients has always been on CommonWell’s roadmap, but was accelerated as a priority when some patient portals joined the group. Two patient portals, MediPortal and Integrated Data Services, are currently CommonWell members and have committed to launch these services by the year’s end.

“In a world where the care delivery system is shifting to value-based care, patients are ever increasingly being asked to be discretionary consumers, and data access is the key to empowering the patient to become a savvy consumer,” Anand Prabhu, CEO of MediPortal, said in a statement. “CommonWell is the only multi-vendor network that not only enables interoperability, but most importantly, enables the data to truly follow the patient wherever he or she goes for care. We at MediPortal are thrilled to be one of the first companies to offer access to these services direct to the consumer.”

But there were some new challenges in opening up CommonWell’s data-sharing protocol, which allows anyone accessing one node to automatically access all the data about a particular patient in any other active Commonwell node, to patients. Hospital regulations and policies like HIPAA kept providers from accessing data for patients other than their own, but security measures were required in order to open the platform up to patients.

“For a patient, we don’t have those sorts of safeguards,” Asnaani said. “We needed to create policies that would make it a little bit more robust to make sure when a patient is asking for their data and they are who they say they are.”

In addition to MediPortal and IDS, other existing members that have patient portals will incorporate the new patient access features into their offerings. These include Aprima Medical Software, athenahealth, Cerner, Evident, Modernizing Medicine and RelayHealth, a division of McKesson.

CommonWell counts more than 4,700 sites as live users of its network, with another 3,500 committed to joining.