CommonWell-Carequality beefs up data sharing, but some providers remain disconnected

Doctor computer keyboard
EHR vendors could take a cue from athenahealth and Epic, a new paper from KLAS suggests. (Getty/jacoblund)

Last month, CommonWell and Carequality officially teamed up, allowing providers to share information in electronic health records (EHRs) with one another regardless of which vendor they use. The move was supposed to make it easy for providers to communicate and connect with one another.

Why, then, is automatic interoperability still not the norm?

According to a new report from KLAS, a firm that evaluates the latest CommonWell-Carequality connection, “opt-in” requirements for users have slowed the facilitation of interoperability, particularly among community providers.

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KLAS analysts called the new connection "critical step towards data sharing." Vendors including eClinicalWorks and Cerner encourage their users to participate in the CommonWell connection. However, an “opt-out” system, which Athenahealth and Epic use, is likely the solution. Both have eliminated this problem almost entirely, with CommonWell and Carequality adoption rates at or above 90%.

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Governance barriers represent a major hurdle as well.

Several vendors still leave governance—sorting out the legal concerns and questions about who controls data—to providers, which is a headache for them. Those who use systems from Cerner, CPSI, eClinicalWorks, and VirenceHealth, need weeks, if not months, to sort out these issues.

But once again, Athenahealth and Epic are a step ahead. The former “[makes] sharing and connectivity automatic and invisible” by taking “the oversight, governance (how to show outside data) and technical worry out of the picture,” and clinicians using Epic’s systems “enjoy the most robust sharing,” having removed governance and participation obstacles years ago, KLAS said.

RELATED: New HHS recommendations focus on freeing clinicians from EHR burdens

The report makes it clear that all vendors can share patient records successfully, and all except one, Virence Health, have made data exchange connections available to their users at no cost. Veritas Capital purchased Virence earlier this year and plans to integrate it with its most recent acquisition: Athenahealth

However, it seems widespread adoption of the CommonWell-Carequality connection rests in the hands of EHR vendors. Whether they will take the right steps to make that happen remains to be seen.

This report was a followup to one KLAS published in March.