Biggest HIMSS news for families: CommonWell Health Alliance for getting our data to be where we need it

A quick note – mark my words, this is important -

At the big HIMSS health IT conference, six vendors of electronic health records have announced that they’ll be collaborating to share data as the Commonwell Health Alliance. That’s your data, our data, your family’s data.

Significantly missing from them is the Big Dog in the field, Epic, which is notoriously “all about us,” i.e. themselves.

Of course all the lesser dogs have a motivation in this – to band together and try to knock Big Dog off the top of the mountain.

Read about it here. Top EHR vendors join CommonWell Alliance to boost interoperability

My take: Market forces are starting to emerge. If underdog vendors can combine offer something the dominator doesn’t, that’s free enterprise working!

I hope they’ll also compete on usability. I’ve often heard that Epic can be a royal pain to use, in addition to their policy of favoring data interchange but only with other Epic systems. (As Matron Mama Morton sang in “Chicago,” “You be good to Mama, Mama’s good to you.”) Personally, I want the system my doctors and nurses use to be good for them to use and all about getting my frickin data to my doctors, wherever they are.

(I spoke about the usability issue in 2009, in “Over My Dead Body: Why Usability Matters to Patients.” Slides & video link here.)

I’ve seen this movie play out: A quarter century ago(!) I gained a few tidbits of experience about overthrowing the dominator, when Microsoft and Apple (then mortal enemies) teamed up against Adobe, then the Big Dog of PostScript. Adobe, always claiming the “openness” of PostScript, steadfastly refused to release the “Type 1″ format for high quality PostScript fonts. MS and Apple said “too bad you feel that way” and standardized both operating systems on Apple’s “Royal” font format – which they renamed TrueType.

Adobe’s founder ended up in tears at an industry conference, announcing he’d release the Type 1 specs.

We shall see how this one plays out.

Long term outlook: I wonder who will be the first patient to sue a vendor for failing to transfer data that they knew could have prevented a death.

Here’s hoping CommonWell members get it done and quickly demonstrate real clinical value of moving data to the point where it’s needed. In my view, anything less is obstruction of services, obstruction of care. Give us our data!

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